Few realize that Georgia ranks #10 in the nation in terms of the amount of direct solar energy (irradiation and insolation) that shines upon it each year. And this solar advantage is broadly enjoyed throughout the state, meaning that no single region has vastly more solar resource available to it than another. From Georgia’s high Appalachian peaks, to its verdant farmlands, forests and lowlands found from north to south in our great state, to even its beautiful share of the Atlantic coastline — solar energy is today bringing economic benefits that were once seen as a distant dream.
Some of the earliest beneficiaries of what is becoming widespread, affordable power have been Georgia’s independent farmers and a diverse number of agribusinesses — large and small — that eagerly deployed the different “tools” that solar electric and thermal can now readily power: Solar electric arrays that supplement (and in some cases fully provide for) their electricity needs; solar thermal hot water systems delivering much-needed relief from the high cost of heating water conventionally (with oil, gas, wood or electric-fired heating); solar-powered well pumps that silently, cleanly and reliably handle remote watering stations for their cattle, without having to “shuttle” actual water replenishment (or batteries to run small pumps on a dug/drilled well) out to locations, and/or fuel for running gas-fired generators to do the pumping job.
Homeowners and businesses have benefited, too. Thousands of new solar electric and solar hot water systems in Georgia now provide affordable, clean, efficient and reliable energy right where it is being used — in the home or business that’s installed it. It doesn’t get more “local” than that! Think about it: We’re now literally able to make our own energy and without having to run a combustion engine to do so. We’ve eliminated not only this power’s exact equivalent in that made by using fossil fuels, but its having to first travel the hundreds of miles of transportation (in the case of off-shore oil or foreign natural gas, thousands) to a refinery or depot. Then on to the facility that eventually burns it to produce electricity. Which then still has to be transmitted over hundreds of miles of yet more material (wires, transformers, switches for electric; pipelines for gas, and tanker trucks with yet even more road miles to go, for delivery of heating oil and LP gas) to finally reach the end-users…us.
Is it any wonder that both our nation and the state is excited to see, now at the dawn of each new day, that with it comes the unburdened (and untaxed), silent and effortlessly delivered sun power to keep our homes and offices comfortably heated and cooled, the lights on and the water warm? “Unburdened” because we can finally do so without having to sacrifice (or chose between) the future of our personal (and national) savings, security and growth and continued risks to our health and the environment.
The most practical, maintenance-free and in many instances profitable (saving) use of our abundant solar resource in creating renewable energy is solar electricity. On a pure “solar efficient” basis, only solar water heating ranks higher (calorie for calorie, being the base unit of energy) in terms of its conversion of an equal amount of the sun’s irradiation onto an equally-sized area (of electric panels, or hot water collectors) into energy output. But due to the fact that the largest part of the resultant energy created by a solar thermal reaction is held largely captive to its medium (hot water) it is far less able to be deployed, say, in the flexible manner that we chose. With solar electricity, we have truly “set free” the solar effect by converting the suns rays into usable electric energy along an open and highly diverse “channel of opportunity”: The solar electric array’s wiring >> to our battery banks, or directly from the array (inverting it from DC to AC form along the way) >> onto the electrical distribution system — that of the utility and/or our own >> from there on into our homes or businesses along the usual electrical circuits — for our use at some or all of the electrical outlets, lighting, air conditioning and heating.