Tucker-based company brings ‘green’ energy to Georgia

Solar panel harness energy of the sun

Solar and other alternative forms of energy are not likely to replace traditional sources in the foreseeable future, but they definitely have a place in the overall mix, according to Jeff Pratt, president of Tucker-based Green Power EMC.

Green Power EMC, established in 2001, is owned by the same 38 electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) that own Oglethorpe Power Corp., headquartered in the Northlake area. Like Oglethorpe, Green Power EMC owns power sources that may be larger than a single EMC needs but through economies of scale allows EMCs to provide power more economically than individual EMCs could. Oglethorpe is part owner of some power plants operated by Georgia Power Co.

“We’re technically a separate company from Oglethorpe with a separate board of directors,” Pratt explained, “but we share facilities and such administrative functions as accounting services.”

Pratt, in fact, holds an executive position at Oglethorpe as well as Green Power.

Green Power EMC recently agreed to purchase the full output of a new 20-megawatt solar project planned for construction in southeast Georgia. The project was selected from among proposals solicited in 2013 as the company sought to add more solar energy to its portfolio.

“A 20-megawatt project is a large power source. It will be one of the largest solar generating facilities in Georgia,” said Pratt, who added that the solar array will, energy collection equipment, occupy approximately 135 acres and will incorporate more than 87,000 solar modules.

“Once completed, the solar array will generate more than 43,000 megawatt hours of clean, renewable electricity annually,” he said of the ground-mounted solar project to be constructed near Hazlehurst. Under an agreement with owner-operator Silicon Ranch Corporation, Green Power EMC will receive all the energy produced by the solar project during a 25-year period.

Construction is scheduled to begin this year, and the facility is to be ready to produce electricity in late 2015.

Green Power EMC already owns two smaller solar facilities, one near Athens and another near Warner Robins. The new facility nearly doubles Green Power EMC’s energy capacity. Pratt said, “The project moves us further down the road to becoming a much more sustainable state. I believe there’s a future for solar here in Georgia that’s just starting to be realized.

The 20-megawatt project will produce enough electricity to serve about 3,000 households, according to Pratt.

In addition to its solar facilities, Green Power EMC owns facilities that generate power from waste wood from Georgia’s pulp and paper manufacturers and from methane gas emitted from landfills. “These facilities take what would otherwise be a negative for the environment and turn it into usable energy,” Pratt said.

He said Green Power EMC also owns a hydroelectric facility that he believes is the only low-impact hydroelectric system in Georgia. Hydropower dams, he explained, create pollution-free energy, but they can have an adverse impact on fish, wildlife and other resources. Low impact hydro facilities are those that minimize the negative impact on the environment.

Pratt said while Green Power EMC has no other major acquisitions on the horizon “we are always looking for clean sources of energy that add value to our portfolio.”

“We not only want to use power produced in an environmentally friendly way now, but we want to stay abreast with the technology so that we are prepared in the future to see that affordable, sustainable energy is available to our customers,” he said. EMCs that own Green Power EMC serve more than 4.1 million Georgia residents.

EMCs are member-owned electric companies. The concept started during President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration to bring affordable electricity to rural America. The first EMCs were established in Georgia, where Roosevelt noticed the problem of getting electric power outside big cities when he was receiving polio treatments in Warm Springs. In the mid-1930s, fewer than one American rural home or farm out of 10 had electrical service. By 1953, 90 percent of the nation’s farms had electricity.

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