Groundbreaking for the project, on Dalton Utilities’ Land Application System (LAS) in Murray County, took place Wednesday morning.
“Solar is up and coming. We are going to see more of it. I am glad this is going to be the largest facility in Georgia. It’s exciting to be part of this,” said Dalton Utilities board member Cathy Holmes.
Officials say Dalton is also home to what is currently the largest solar array in Georgia, which is owned by U.S. Floors.
The LAS facility will be owned by Georgia Power and co-developed by United Renewable Energy and Mack Creek Energy.
They will place 1,596 solar panels on the site. That’s just the first phase, which will generate 360 kilowatts of power when the sun is shining. Georgia Power plans to expand the facility over time in two similar phases, and the facility could eventually generate 1 megawatt. That’s enough to power 400 houses, officials said.
“Solar typically runs about 15 percent to 18 percent of the time,” said Georgia Power Project Manager William Houser.
Georgia Power and Dalton Utilities are already partners in the Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant in Burke County.
“We think it’s a great partnership with Dalton Utilities, and this will build on that,” said Georgia Power spokeswoman Lynn Wallace. “We’ll be selling the output to Dalton Utilities, and they’ll get any credits for them.”
Dalton Utilities President Don Cope said in a board meeting in January that he believes the federal government may eventually mandate that utilities have a certain share of their generating portfolio in renewable sources such as solar.
Dalton Utilities officials said then the cost of the facility would be about $5 million, which will be paid by Georgia Power.
Houser said the facility will not only benefit Georgia Power and Dalton Utilities but also give a boost to Dalton Utilities ‘ corporate customers.
“There are a lot of companies participating in our renewable energy programs. They purchase blocks of energy so they can say that they are using renewable energy. That’s something that their customers are looking for,” he said.
Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce President Brian Anderson said the facility could also help boost economic development in Northwest Georgia.
“This ties into all of the efforts that the carpet industry is making to be more green and more sustainable, and it gives us one more thing to talk about when we talk to other companies that are innovative,” he said.