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Update on solar power, nuclear power and coal in Georgia
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As chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee, I get many opportunities to see up close and personal what's happening in Georgia with all the energy options we have available. I had not realized that Atlanta has so many solar installations until I toured some of them recently.

Turner Enterprises has covered their Luckie Street parking facilities with 25 solar canopies that can provide 228,000 watts of electrical power annually. We were not told the cost of the installation, but these canopies are expected to provide 25 percent of the power needs at a savings of $30,000 per year.

Turner Enterprises is most proud of their contribution to Atlanta's effort toward clean air. The 164 metric tons of CO2 not put into the air annually equals removing 20 average homes from the electric grid or 18,418 gallons of gasoline not burned in Atlanta.

MARTA is currently installing the largest solar canopy in Georgia at the Laredo Facility. This is the second largest structure of its kind at a U.S. transit system. The construction was made possible by a $10.8 million grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Transit Investments for Greenhouse Gas and Energy Reduction (TRIGGER) Program.

In addition to providing 1.2 megawatts of power annually, the canopies will provide shade for 272 bus parking stalls. The useful life is estimated at 45 years and will offset about 50 percent of the Laredo Facility's annual electrical cost ($320,000).

Turner Enterprises is a private corporation and can indulge in philanthropic ventures; however, MARTA is financed by its users and taxpayers of Atlanta. TRIGGER is financed by the taxpayers of the United States, and that includes you and me.

The estimated savings of $160,000 (half of $320K) per year for 45 years comes to $7.2 million return on investment of $10.8 million. Actually, it is almost a zero investment for Atlanta since the rest of us taxpayers put up the money. Yet that is small change compared to the Solyndra debacle. The most visible and lauded recipient of "green stimulus" money has gone bankrupt, leaving taxpayers on the hook for $535 million in loan guarantees.

Don't misunderstand me. I think that solar is wonderful. When my wife Anne and I returned to Lumpkin County in 1979, we built a passive solar home with a greenhouse. Our heating bill averaged about $100 per year over the next 15 years, and that was for wood to fuel our backup heating system.

If individuals want to spend their own money for solar panels to generate electricity, then let them do that and get a federal and state tax credit. I believe that individual homeowners and privately owned businesses should reap rewards from investing their money in systems that will not only produce savings to them but also benefit the environment. I have friends who are using geothermal for heating and cooling and another who has his own hydro-power system.

All fuels that do not produce green house gases should be welcome during this period of debates over global warming, including nuclear energy.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath of the Japanese tragedy, reviews, deferrals and outright cancellations of nuclear programs have been a persistent international trend.

The emerging shortfall in nuclear capacity has major implications for power generation from other fuel sources - coal, gas, hydro and renewables.

To replace anticipated loss of nuclear generation, for example, several nations, including Germany, are already turning to coal as the leading alternative fuel. The Financial Times has reported that with nuclear generation constrained, "coal fire plants will be run harder, particularly in the peak months (June-September) of electricity consumption."

Georgia's Attorney General Sam Olens spoke to the monthly gathering of Lumpkin County Republicans last week. One of the subjects he discussed was the EPA being sued by Georgia over EPA's attempt to initiate "cap and trade" via new rules governing air quality across state lines. This is being done because the Obama Administration could not get "cap and trade" legislation through Congress.

According to the attorney general, Georgia is getting zero credit for improving air quality by our own laws and regulations.

Georgia has the two largest coal fired plants in the nation (Bowen and Scherer). These plants use Wyoming Coal because it is cleaner than eastern coal. If they were to be closed by EPA rules, cost of producing electricity by alternative means could increase our bills by 40 percent.

Closing any of Georgia's power plants would also add to our unemployment problems as power plants are usually the largest employer in their communities.

Rep. Amos Amerson can be reached at 689 N. Chestatee Street, Dahlonega, GA 30533; phone (706) 864-6589; e-mail Or contact Gerald Lewy at (706) 344-7788.