Marietta expands its energy portfolio to include solar power
September 2 – The city of Marietta expands its power purchase options with a new contract that will supply up to four megawatts per hour – or about 1% of the city’s electricity needs – from a solar field in Wilcox County, Georgia. east of Cordele.
Marietta’s Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin was delighted to diversify the city’s power sources for its 45,000 customers, albeit a tiny fraction of that solar deal.
“I think we should be proud to be in the solar business … that’s a good addition,” Tumlin said at a council meeting in August after the council approved the contract.
The Marietta Board of Lights and Water buys the electricity for 20 years at a fixed price of 2.6 cents per kilowatt hour plus administrative costs.
According to City Manager Bill Bruton, the city’s average cost of generating electricity – including plant construction, operation, and other fixed costs – is around 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
“That includes nuclear power, water, gas and coal,” he told the MDJ. “We have the highest share of emission-free, CO2-neutral energy generation by companies in our market area. This solar generation will add to this non-emissive benefit. With the solar contract, the city does not have to pay for the construction of the solar park. “So we only have the energy costs that Marietta Power actually received.”
Tumlin said the city is ending some of its relationships with other, older energy sources and must continually find new sources to replace them.
“So we’re replacing the carbon, the fossils, with others,” Tumlin said in an interview. “We didn’t buy extra, we bought it (the solar system) because we’re going to cheaper resources.”
The solar field is scheduled to go online at the end of 2023 and has an estimated 260,000 solar panels.
The city council approved a contract last month to buy up to four megawatts per hour, though the city sometimes gets less, depending on demand from other cities.
The story goes on
Bruton stated that MEAG, the public body that generates and transmits electricity to municipal utilities in Georgia, “may have requested too many megawatts from participating cities. If so, they will reduce everyone’s requests. When that happens , we could “get an amount between 3 and 4 megawatts.”
Marietta buys the solar power together with more than 20 other MEAG member cities.
Walmart buys 1.6 megawatt hours of the electricity that Marietta receives for its two branches in the city. The retail giant has pledged to run 100% of its business on renewable energy by 2035 and is buying green power from local utilities to power its stores with renewable energy.
MEAG will buy 80 megawatts for its cities in order to diversify its portfolio. By 2045, MEAG wants to obtain 90 percent of its electricity from emission-free sources.
MEAG’s Michele Jackson touted the benefit of a fixed price that gives the city the ability to purchase solar power when the cost of other power sources is high (the city buys power from various sources on a daily basis based on the energy price and needs of the city) .
“As coal and natural gas prices fluctuate, this resource is likely to be less expensive than these resources or could be cheaper than these resources,” Jackson told the council.
The agreement is one of MEAG’s first forays into solar energy. The organization says it gets 67% of its energy from clean sources, most of which come from nuclear power. Solar power would still make up less than 1% of MEAG’s total energy consumption, which is over 2,000 megawatts nationwide. MEAG obtains 61% of its electricity from nuclear energy, 24% from natural gas, 8% from hydropower and 2% from coal.
According to Jackson, the solar system will be 600 hectares in size. The solar field is connected directly to a MEAG substation, which saves money as the infrastructure of other utility companies is not used.
The field will generate solar power from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in summer and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter. The winter sunlight is expected to produce about half as much energy as the blazing summer sun.