City of Atlanta to Install Solar Panels on 28 City Buildings
(APN) ATLANTA — City of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed held a press conference Monday, November 23, 2015 at Atlanta City Hall to announce that the City is launching Solar Atlanta, its first solar energy program.
The program will allow solar panels to be installed on the roofs of 28 municipal buildings in Atlanta. This is the first program of its kind for a municipality in Georgia and the largest municipal solar energy program in the U.S. Southeast region.
Over 600 municipal buildings were evaluated for solar capacity before 28 buildings were selected.
“Some of the recreation centers and fire stations will get as much as forty percent of their power needs from a safe, sustainable, and renewable source: the Sun,” Mayor Reed said.
This program is expected to reduce the City’s electric bills and also reduce pollution.
The solar panels are projected to reduce the city’s carbon dioxide emissions by 159 megatons and save 2.6 billion gallons of water through the year 2030.
“It makes great financial and environmental sense,” Reed said. “It puts us closer to being a top tier city for sustainability in the United States,” he added.
In 2012, Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong (District 5) raised questions about the possibility of municipal buildings using solar panels.
At that time, the Office of Sustainability issued a memo stating that installing solar panels were considered financially unfeasible, as reported in Atlanta Progressive News.
However, APN reported in September 2015 that the appointment of former State Rep. Stephanie Benfield (D-Atlanta) as Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, would likely lead to major positive developments in terms of the City investing in renewable energy.
Benfield tells Atlanta Progressive News that the Solar Atlanta Plan “is being financed through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) and HB 57 (The Solar Free Market Financing Act of 2015) made this type of financing available.”
PPA’s allow solar developers to own and manage solar panels, while the City of Atlanta will buy the electricity the panels generate. It allows municipalities, businesses, and residential customers to access solar technology without the upfront cost.
Solar has been painfully slow coming to Georgia because it was not considered economically feasible until the General Assembly last year changed the law to allow third party financing of solar.
“This legislation has the potential to revolutionize the solar market in Georgia,” Benfield said.
Benfield hopes Atlanta can serve as a model for other cities and private commercial entities to take advantage of PPA’s to finance their own solar installations.
Representatives from other cities are already picking up on the opportunity to bring Atlanta’s solar energy model to their cities.
Jonnell Carol Minefee, a sales representative with Solar Tyme, tells APN she plans to take Atlanta’s solar plan back to Columbus, Georgia, where she hopes it will be replicated.
The federal solar investment tax credit expires in 2016. Benfield wants it extended, so the solar market in Georgia and across the country will continue to thrive.
Environment Georgia releases a report every year ranking cities for their solar infrastructure and last year Atlanta ranked 39th in the country.
Georgia has a vast untapped potential for solar energy, far more than Germany, the world leader in solar power generation. The solar plan will help enhance Atlanta’s solar ranking in the future.
“Atlanta should be the South’s solar leader with our abundant sunshine, we could be a hub for renewable energy jobs and fossil fuel free power,” Jennette Gayer, Director, Environment Georgia, said.
The City of Atlanta will issue request for proposals and invite solar developers to participate in the initiative through a competitive bidding process.
This announce comes at a good time, because in a week representatives from Atlanta will be in Paris for the Worldwide Summit on Climate.