The Most Important Man You’re Not Hearing About – By Dr. James Rust

May 07, 2014

Members of Georgia’s Public Service Commission like Bubba McDonald have been pushing for the use of solar energy and remaining silent on the Obama Administration’s job killing, misguided energy policies for quite some time.

The Obama Administration is shutting down the use of coal for power production through rulings by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), arguing that carbon dioxide from stack gases are a dangerous pollutant. They conveniently ignore the vastly improved advancements through the emergence of clean coal technology and the integral role that coal fired power plants have in ensuring the reliability of the energy that powers our lives.

Two public hearings on power plant pollutants were held in Atlanta in May 2012 and October 2013. No one from the Public Service Commission, the elected body charged with representing the people of Georgia on energy matters, testified at these hearings. To my knowledge, there has been no attempt by the Public Service Commission to criticize these activities by the Obama Administration. Does this imply tacit if not outright approval of the on-going efforts to remove the use of the nation’s abundant fossil fuel energy resources and replace them with unreliable and expensive renewable energy sources? President Obama could not wish for better support for his destructive energy policies.

WABE radio reported on a February 28, 2014 story that the Georgia Solar Energy Association gave its annual solar advocacy award to the Georgia Public Service Commission at their meeting on February 27th. Commissioner McDonald was there receiving an award with all but one (Stan Wise) of the other commissioners. This flies in the face of the role that Public Service Commissions should play advocates for rate payers. The PSC body politic should want safe, reliable, and economical electricity supplied to Georgia rate payers. Despite the flagrant misinformation supplied by the solar lobby, solar is neither reliable nor economical as it sits today.

The science behind solar energy is telling. Sunshine in Georgia accounts for roughly 30 percent less than desert areas in the Southwestern United States where solar has been a trend. Even still, my studies as a retired nuclear engineering professor and policy advisor for The Heartland Institute suggest that all solar plants built to date in the Southwest generate power at a considerably greater cost than power generated by coal or nuclear power in Georgia.

A good example of solar energy economics is given by the 2012 signing of a contract by the Dublin, GA School Board. The contract called for electricity from a 1.09 Megawatt solar plant for 25 years at a cost of $7.5 million. This electricity could be bought from an existing power company in Georgia for about one-third the amount.

It’s simple math that doesn’t add up. The article claims 800 Megawatts of solar energy powers 200,000 homes. In Georgia, the average home uses 12,000 kilowatt-hours per year or 12 megawatt-hours per year. Thus the solar plants need to supply 2,400,000 megawatt-hours per year. This requires an annual output of 3,000 megawatt-hours for a 1 megawatt solar plant or a capacity factor of 0.34 (3000/8760). Solar plants in the Southwest desert areas have capacity factors of 0.18. Georgia solar plants most likely have capacity factors of 0.14. Thus an 800 Megawatt solar plant in Georgia could supply all power for approximately 80,000, not 200,000 homes. This is a typical exaggeration by advocates for solar energy who do not give details about plant performance when making presentations to the public.

Whether by ignorance or willful disregard, many members of our Georgia Public Service Commission like Commissioner McDonald have not put the interests of rate payers ahead of heavily subsidized and unproven renewable energy interests. Georgia’s leaders should represent Georgia energy consumer interests, not those of the misguided Obama Administration.

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