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Going Solar in Georgia: Opportunities for Local Governments

May 31, 2016  |  Carl Vinson Institute of Government
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Local governments spend up to 10% of their operating budgets on energy. Solar power is one way local governments in Georgia can improve energy efficiency, lower costs, and serve as an environmentally friendly leader in their communities. Over the past decade, solar power has become increasingly viable economically and technologically.

Georgia is well-positioned to take advantage of the sun’s rays for its energy needs. The same sun that gives the state’s capital the nickname “Hotlanta” and fuels Georgia’s massive agricultural sector can provide ample energy for solar-powered photovoltaic (PV) systems. A recent study ranked Georgia third among states that could benefit from solar energy. Indeed, Georgia’s solar energy capacity is growing, more than quadrupling since 2010.

Some researchers suggest that if current efficiency trends continue, solar power will be the world’s largest source of energy by 2050. While some of the advance in this viability has been due to subsidies for renewable energy, many of the recent gains have come from improvements in technology and in associated costs such as permitting, installation, and financing. State and local programs, policies, projects, and incentives have helped to reduce these associated costs.

This report begins by summarizing the ways in which local governments can deploy solar in their energy-use mix and provides examples of Georgia communities that have already begun to do so. Section Two considers some of the barriers and costs to supporting community solar. Section Three provides an overview of financing options available to local governments to fund government- and third party–owned PV systems, and to incentivize the use of solar energy among businesses and residents in their communities.