Georgia Power, EPRI to study solar PV installation on power lines

Atlanta, February 2, 2011 — Georgia Power and the Electric Power Research Institute are conducting an 18-month study to evaluate how solar photovoltaic power systems may affect the utility's distribution system.

Fifty photovoltaic systems are being installed in seven cities around the state. Seven-to-eight small systems will be installed on one distribution line in each city. Sites were identified based on a number of environmental parameters. Selecting cities around the state will allow evaluation of a variety of conditions such as temperature, cloud cover and solar intensity.

EPRI will monitor each module's power output and sunlight input at one- second intervals for the entire 18 months to determine how much electricity they generate and how well they perform under diverse weather conditions.

The panels will remain in place at the end of the project and Georgia Power will continue to monitor long-term results. This research will help to:

* Identify the effects, if any, on operation of Georgia Power's distribution system

* Understand the feasibility of widespread solar PV installations on distribution lines

* Determine ranges for overall PV performance in Georgia

* Characterize and compare variable issues such as passing clouds

Each panel is about 3-by-5 feet in size, and able to generate about 200 watts of electricity.

"An installation of this size will not create a noticeable increase in the amount of energy on our distribution system," says Scott Gentry, Georgia Power's distributed generation services project manager and coordinator for this project. "However, the data we collect from each module will provide useful information on PV generation as it relates to the utilities grid."

PV panels have been installed in Rome, Valdosta, Macon, Augusta, Columbus, Savannah and Conley. EPRI will own the panels while Georgia Power does the installation.

Solar power uses PV cells to convert sunlight directly into electricity. When sunlight strikes a PV cell, electrons are dislodged, creating an electrical current.

Georgia Power is the largest subsidiary of Southern Co., one of the nation's largest generators of electricity. The company is an investor-owned, tax-paying utility with rates well below the national average. Georgia Power serves 2.3 million customers in all but four of Georgia's 159 counties.

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