The state of Georgia has always had a close relationship with the energy we get from the sun with our history of agriculture. More recently, this relationship has evolved to include the benefits we can reap from solar energy. The only president from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, famously put a solar array on top of the White House during his single presidential term and he is just one of many citizens of Georgia who are keeping interest in solar alive in our state. This was a symbolic gesture to demonstrate commitment to a regenerative economy in the US, as well as energy independence for Americans – a future where United States of America would not have to depend on far away oil deposits to power our communities and where homeowners could rest assured that their homes would stay lit even in the event of a grid blackout. As most know, the fate of that 32 panel solar system would not be to stay for long on the roof of the White House – shortly after they were erected, the system was put into storage during a shifting political tide.
Georgia’s contributions to solar have come a long way since President Carter installed those 32 panels on the White House. Today, solar in Georgia is a huge contributor to the state’s energy consumption. Georgia is leading the renewable energy charge in the Southeast. Since the first “Sun Day” (a Sunday celebration of solar energy declared by President Carter in 1978) there have been many exciting developments for solar in Georgia. That 32 panel solar installation first installed by President Carter could do little more than heat water. Now, the solar industry in Georgia is looking into innovative ways to power our entire state through renewable energy. Solar from Atlanta to Perry and beyond – every day we are close and closer to a regenerative economy in Georgia.
One of the most exciting developments for solar in Georgia is the Houston Solar Project. This sprawling 68 mega watt solar farm is one of the most impressive and large scale projects in renewable energy coming out of Georgia and it is a fascinating demonstration of what could be possible for the future of solar in Georgia. Located in Perry, just an hour and a half from Atlanta going down i-75, there are many exciting innovations at this solar project. For one, the project hopes to be a model for how governments, utilities, and private companies can work together to form a regenerative economy that benefits everyone. The power from this solar installation will be divided among over 30 EMC’s in Georgia meaning that this installation will generate solar energy from Perry to communities all over the state. Given it’s location right beside I-75, the project provides visibility for the potential of solar energy to passers by all over the country.
This solar installation has some interesting (and adorable) groundskeepers. The land where the solar installation has been developed is maintained by hundreds of sheep. In an effort to support regenerative agriculture while also generating renewable energy, the agriculture technicians which work at the site have come up with an innovative solution. The sheep get to spend their days grazing in an open, sunny field. As they do so, they replenish nutrients to the soil surrounding the solar installation. Eventually, the goal is to establish a thriving grasslands ecosystem in a place that was once a barren field with failing topsoil. Essentially, the vast swath of land which plays host to the solar installation, has also become a regenerative sheep ranch – an homage to the agricultural practices already present in Perry. Overall, the project is a heartening display of how solar, agriculture, innovation and sustainability (and sheep!) can come together to create a thriving, regenerative economy for Georgia.
Turning our gaze North to solar in Atlanta, there are quite a few interesting innovations happening. As any Atlanta resident can tell you, knowing where you’ll be parking for an event before you leave your house is of vital importance. At the Mercedez Benz stadium, parking is plentiful and it’s even solar powered! The entire Atlanta campus boasts over 4,000 solar panels, but they haven’t just been installed in the obvious spots – ie: the rooftop of the stadium itself. Top level parking at the stadium is equipped with awnings to shelter cars and pedestrians. These awnings are also solar powered making this one of the first solar car ports! The project is an interesting look at how solar panels can be incorporated into more than just a rooftop – all that is required is a little (solar) creativity. Solar in Atlanta is nothing if not creative!
And it is not just exciting new solar installations happening in Georgia. We are now in the business of producing panels and have been for some years. The north Georgia city of Dalton has historically been known as a flooring manufacturing capital for the entire country. Now though, it is becoming known for a more regenerative mode of economy. The Hanwah manufacturing plant in Dalton produces tens of thousands of solar panels every day! This plant takes raw materials and does all of the work of converting them into solar panels in Georgia. This means that an Atlanta solar installation could be made from components produced completely in Georgia and installed by a Georgia team.
Today, Atlanta solar history is on full display at the Jimmy Carter Library. There the last remnant of that original 32 panel system holds a place of reverence as a symbol of Georgia’s contribution to the green future. It might have taken a few decades since that original Sun Day in 1978 at the White House, but the rest of the nation is bit by bit coming around on the idea of clean energy from an independent source. The journey towards solar has always been led by innovators and people who value energy independence as much as independence of thought. As it turns out, many of those thinkers were grown right here in Georgia – the future is bright here in the peach state and it runs on solar!
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