With slew of new purchases, SE utilities continue to warm up to solar 

Source: Kristi E. Swartz, E&E reporter • Posted: Monday, April 20, 2015

Southern Co.’s wholesale power unit bought its fourth California-based solar array yesterday in one of several deals that has put the Southeast in the solar spotlight this week.

Atlanta-based Southern’s wholesale unit now has a controlling interest in a 32-megawatt solar array in California. The purchase means the company’s Southern Power unit will own roughly 990 MW of solar and wind projects throughout the country.

As with previous projects, the Lost Hills-Blackwell Solar Facility is utility-scale, fitting in with Southern Power’s strategy as a wholesale power provider to other investor-owned utilities, electricity cooperatives and municipalities.

Southern Power recently expanded its solar portfolio to include a 50-MW Solar Gen 2 array in California with First Solar Inc. It had previously bought seven other solar operations as part of its partnership with Turner Renewable Energy.

The deal was just one of several solar announcements in the Southeast this week, showing that the region’s utilities continue to warm up to solar on a utility-scale basis.

Southern’s Gulf Power subsidiary won regulatory approval yesterday for a total of 120 MW of solar arrays at three military bases in the Florida Panhandle. The projects are expected to generate enough power for roughly 18,000 homes a year, the company said.

The deal marks the first significant solar move for Gulf Power. It also is one of three separate military projects in the spotlight this week. Southern’s Georgia Power unit is scheduled to break ground on a 30-MW array at Fort Benning this morning, the company said.

Duke Energy Corp. also received regulatory approval to build a 13-MW solar array at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

“We are excited to work with Camp Lejeune to meet its renewable energy needs as part of our continued focus to bring more renewable offerings for our customers and the communities we serve,” said Rob Caldwell, Duke Energy’s senior vice president for distributed resources.

Georgia Power’s project at Fort Benning is one of three solar arrays that is scheduled to start producing power this year. The efforts will lead to the Army getting 18 percent of its electricity in Georgia from renewable fuels that are on-site (EnergyWire, May 16, 2014).

The 90 total megawatts of solar electricity also will move the Army 9 percent closer to meeting federal goals for renewable energy.

Adding three 30-MW arrays would continue to boost Georgia’s rapidly growing solar output and would help the military meet its renewable energy goals to become sustainable and more secure.

Separately, Georgia Power has roughly 900 MW of solar projects under contract through 2016. One of those projects, a 20-MW solar array in Twiggs County, east of Warner Robins Air Force Base, was bought this week by Dominion Power’s Dominion Generation.

The project is Dominion’s second large-scale solar project in Georgia. The Virginia-based utility now owns roughly 360 MW of solar projects in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee and Utah.