Renewable sources of electricity are critical to reducing mankind’s impact on the planet. Looking forward, Georgia Power is taking steps to determine whether the amount of sun the state receives would be enough to generate power using solar panels.
The project involves installing solar panels on top of power poles in seven cities – Augusta, Columbus, Conley, Macon, Rome, Savannah and Valdosta – to determine how much electricity the sun can generate. Some Georgia Power customers are actually receiving some of the electricity being generated by this projects, but only tiny amounts; not enough to see a change in their average electric bill.
Each panel can produce up to 200 watts of electricity. That’s only enough to power five forty watt light bulbs, but the company wants to determine how overcast days impact the system over time. These seemingly small tests could pave the way for vast changes in how we consume power from our local electric company.
Part of the project is to test viable locations. David Watwood, an engineering supervisor with Georgia Power, explained why the panels are being installed in cities across the state. “It may work well in Augusta, but may not work well in Rome.”
One of the main obstacles to solar power is the cost involved. Each panel costs about $5,000. That’s a lot of money to produce 200 watts of electricity. There are solar systems available that can completely power a home, but they can cost $100,000. Right now, going “off the grid” is more of a personal statement than a way to save money on your average electric bill.
The eighteen month study is scheduled to end in the summer of 2012. Managers at Georgia Power are hopeful that it will produce enough power to warrant a closer look at the long term economic feasibility of generating electricity with solar panels. As the technology spreads, they are optimistic that the price of panels will drop, so that they can explore solar power on a much larger scale.
Solar rooftops, solar farms and wind farms – other possible sources of renewable power – are some of the ways to generate electricity that engineers at Georgia Power are hoping to explore in the near future. Alternative energy sources are going to have to be in the long term plans of everyone, and Georgia Power is trying to stay ahead of the curve.
Who knows? Someday, the entire grid may be “off the grid”, when it comes to power generation from fossil fuels.