On February 8, former President Jimmy Carter cut the ribbon on a 10 acre, 1.3 megawatt solar plant on a peanut farm that will provide half the energy needs of his hometown of Plains, Georgia. President Carter is famous for putting solar panels on the roof of the White House to symbolically help combat the energy crunch that occurred during his tenure. The technology was probably not quite ready for prime time, though, and President Ronald Reagan promptly threw the panels in the trash after he was elected.
Now, President Carter has a cutting edge installation in place on his land. The project was developed, engineered and installed by Atlanta-based SolAmerica. It consists of a single-axis tracker solar array, which means rows of panels that will rotate to face the sun all day long. SolAmerica has signed a 25-year power purchase agreement with the local utility Georgia Power. In a press release announcing the project, President Carter said that he thinks that distributed generation like this project will be critical to meeting the growing energy needs of the world while fighting climate change.
Solar generation has doubled in America just since 2013, and that seems poised to continue even without subsidies that have helped the industry in the past. President Carter will only make about $7,000 annually for the use of his land and Plains is a rather small town with only a few hundred residents, so it is not an especially large installation. Utility companies are not the only ones negotiating power purchase agreements from installations this size. Governments, companies, and even consumers can often buy electricity with a power purchase agreement rather than simply accepting their utility’s tariffed rate.
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