A major barrier to achieving clean energy policy in Georgia is the lack of data on resources currently developed within the state.
Before policymakers, industry professionals and consumers can advance energy policy in Georgia, they must have a baseline understanding of the resources currently on the ground. For example, how much electricity is generated in each Georgia county and political district? From what source is that electricity generated? Where are energy efficiency and clean energy projects being successfully developed in the state? How much of the clean energy business activity is flowing to Georgia-based companies?
Southface knew firsthand that this information was difficult to obtain or simply did not exist, as in the case of solar, wind and energy efficiency. GeorgiaEnergyData.org is a response to the dearth of useful information regarding electricity production and energy efficiency within Georgia. The website was launched in the fall of 2012 and is live with the Georgia Solar Map, an interactive tool that graphically presents data on the state’s solar electric and solar thermal resources.
What we’ve learned so far
This project has unearthed interesting and important data. For example, Georgia’s emerging solar manufacturing industry did not have data on where their equipment was installed within the state. Consumers seeking competitive bids did not have an easy way to identify local solar installers. The site’s solar map enables all Georgians to see where resources are located on both the county and state levels.
Stakeholders across the state will benefit from this data. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory database, Georgia is credited with only five megawatts of installed photovoltaics; however, GeorgiaEnergyData.org has documented over 20 megawatts in the state. This site will provide the federal government with accurate and current information on solar in Georgia.
Local economic development professionals were interested to learn that seven of the top ten solar installers in the state are Georgia-based companies and that almost 45 percent of Georgia’s solar output comes from solar panels made by Georgia-based companies. Additionally, more than half of all Georgia counties have solar installations on residences, commercial buildings or underutilized land.
What’s next for GeorgiaEnergyData.org
GeorgiaEnergyData.org will be expanded in 2013 to include additional clean energy technologies, traditional energy resources and certified energy efficient green buildings. Georgia State University is providing guidance to expand website functionality and to build more mapping tools. Potential partners, such as public health professionals, are also collaborating with Southface to map the health benefits of clean energy. Southface envisions GeorgiaEnergyData.org becoming the comprehensive resource for energy information in Georgia.
What’s next for Solar
GeorgiaEnergyData.org illustrates that while the southern and eastern parts of the state receive the greatest solar radiation, 70 percent of Georgia’s solar electricity is generated in the northwestern portion of the state. This demonstrates the great potential to increase solar power generation in Georgia across geographic regions. The benefits of solar are not limited to urban counties such as Fulton, DeKalb and Chatham, which are currently leading the way. Union and Whitfield counties are not far behind as business owners ranging from farmers to carpet manufacturers begin to harness the power of solar. Across all regions, the future looks bright for Georgia.