Sam Burnham, Curator
So, I heard a story on the radio the other day. Georgia Power is looking to increase its solar power output to stay within a plan being implemented in accordance with the Georgia Public Service Commission to transition away from coal powered generation.
I’ve written more than once about my support for this move and to find sources of energy that don’t lead to air pollution or the stockpiling of coal ash. I’d like to see the implementation of more community solar along with micro-grids, particularly in smaller towns. I would also like to see some efforts towards converting shuttered and demolished coal plants into solar plants. The land is available, and the distribution infrastructure is already in place, so it seems like a no-brainer to me. But, then again, they didn’t ask me.
One major reason I want to see some real effort in using existing sites is a quote that appeared in the story. While suggesting the solar plants need to be in South Georgia, a project manager with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, “You can't get a 200-acre parcel of flat land up here. You start getting in the mountains, and it's more developed in the north.”
"It’s more developed."
Yet another example of an organization with "Southern" in their title demonstrating a dramatically un-Southern mindset.
I get what he’s saying what’s bothering me is the mindset that we’ve developed in the modern era. Development means significant construction of buildings, highways, parking lots, etc. Development never means orchards, pastures, timber, or even the current project that will develop into Georgia’s first full-scale national park. It is ok to develop these things into literally anything other than what they are.
Atlanta is dotted with numerous failed and failing shopping malls that all sit on relatively flat land. In fact, Atlanta’s WAGA TV recently reported that Gwinnett County purchased 93 acres of the Gwinnett Place Mall property for redevelopment. Now, that’s not 200 acres but it’s a sizable plot of land that’s close to an area with significant power consumption needs. I haven’t been in that exact area in a number of years, but I’m left wondering how many other surrounding properties could have been consolidated into a plan to put a solar farm in Gwinnett.
But it’s not considered normal to think that way. This is not how our real estate and property development system is set up because it goes against how we think as a society. Development means you go into an area that’s green and leafy, bulldoze it, and then “improve” it. Boom. Instant “progress.”
Why isn’t it considered to be progress to build a source of affordable, sustainable, clean energy adjacent to the customers, but it is considered progress to bulldoze a watermelon farm 200 miles away, build solar, and then run power lines, substations, etc. all the way back up to the customers? Sure, a solar farm in South Georgia will be of some benefit to the people who live there but we know how Georgia works. Most of the customers are north of Macon and that’s where most of the power will go.
We have to start thinking differently about what development means. We have to start thinking about the value of things rather than just the cost.
South Georgia is not some colony to be exploited for the benefit of Metro Atlanta. We can’t just keep dropping landfills, and prisons, and power plants, mines, and whatever other thing that Metro Atlanta residents find to be distasteful on the people in South Georgia. That half of the state IS developed. It just doesn’t look like what the modern world thinks developed means.
And yes, I think we need to do more for the economy of South Georgia but swiping their land to produce resources for Atlanta ain’t it. Innovation and thinking differently can help build a future for clean energy in Georgia. Localizing the generation can be a great place to start.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire