Southern Company's operating subsidiaries may self-build renewable generation and/or enter into power purchase agreements for energy and environmental attributes from generating facilities fueled by renewable resources. Southern Company's operating utilities retain the right to use the energy delivered as renewable energy for customers and retire the environmental attributes, as well as the right to sell the energy and the environmental attributes, separately or bundled together, to third parties at their sole discretion.
In 2012, wholesale subsidiary Southern Power began commercial operation of the Nacogdoches Generating Facility in Sacul, Texas. The 100-megawatt plant — one of the largest wood-fired biomass plants in the U.S. — serves the city of Austin.
Southern Company has conducted research at multiple locations into co-firing coal with wood chips, wood pellets, sawdust, urban wood waste, peanut hulls, switchgrass and other biomass to determine the costs and impacts of the process.
Subsidiary Alabama Power co-fired biomass as part of normal operations at its Plant Gadsden for nine years; this included both wood fuels and energy grasses such as switchgrass and miscanthus.
Partnerships with Resolute Forest Products and Westervelt Renewable Energy are providing 22.5 MW of renewable generation capacity from wood byproducts that Alabama Power will use to further diversify its mix of electricity fuel sources.
Georgia Power has partnerships with DeKalb County and Waste Management for 9.6 MW of landfill gas-to-energy projects.
As of June 24, 2015, Southern Company subsidiary Southern Power currently owns more than 810 MW of solar generating capacity at 16 facilities operating or under construction in California, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico and North Carolina. The company owns seven solar projects in partnership with Turner Renewable Energy and three solar projects in partnership with First Solar. The company has recently announced the acquisition of four solar facilities in Taylor County, Georgia, as well as two solar facilities in Decatur County, Georgia.
Georgia Power received regulatory approval for its Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI) on November 20, 2012. Through GPASI, Georgia Power has the largest voluntary solar program of any investor-owned utility in the United States. The program calls for 210 megawatts (MW) of solar generation capacity through long-term contracts with utility-scale and distributed generation-scale projects. As part of Georgia Power's 2013 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Georgia Public Service Commission added another 525 MW to follow a similar protocol as GPASI. All approved projects are expected to come on-line by the end of 2016.
Southern Company and Georgia Tech partnered on an extensive study of offshore wind worldwide during 2009 and 2010. Following this study, Southern Company and Georgia Power, submitted a joint application in April 2011 to the Department of the Interior to deploy a site-specific wind data collection configuration off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia.
In May 2012, after continuing offshore data collection technology research, an alternative to the traditional meteorological tower deployment, a Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data collection configuration, was filed to supplement the 2011 application. LIDAR is a buoy configuration which can be moved from one site to another, with a potentially smaller environmental footprint, that could be used to collect offshore wind data throughout the Southern Company coastal footprint. A National Environmental Policy Act regulatory review would be required prior to use of this technology. Strategic core business decisions will determine our steps forward with regard to offshore wind data collection.
Santa Rosa County, FL, asked Gulf Power to help assess the wind resource at Navarre Beach. A 60-meter meteorological tower was installed and data was collected for two years. The results of this project generally show a wind resource that falls in a class typically considered too low, based on current technology and economics.
A similar measurement campaign is starting in Gulfport, MS, with Mississippi Power and one of their customers, to further understand the wind resource in our territory.
Georgia Power has received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission to purchase the energy output sourced from 250 MW of wind starting in 2016, Gulf Power has received approval from the Florida Public Service Commission to purchase the energy output sourced from 160 MW of wind starting in 2016, and Alabama Power is currently purchasing the energy output sourced from 404 MW of wind.
Green Energy/Landfill Gas
Subsidiary Gulf Power owns and operates a 3,200-kilowatt landfill gas-to-electricity plant in Escambia County, Florida, that produces enough power to serve 900 homes.
Southern Company subsidiaries, both individually and in partnerships, are offering customers a growing amount of renewable energy options, which may be purchased in “blocks” of green energy from qualified sources.
Georgia Power has received regulatory approval to nearly double to 5.4 MW the amount of solar energy it purchases to supply its Green Energy Program.
Southern Company is ranked seventh in the nation for hydroelectric power generation, with a combined generating capacity of 2,825 MW. Turbine retrofit projects at several hydro facilities have increased hydro capacity by over 5 percent. Also, state-of-the-art gate systems are being installed at many plants to help protect the habitat of marine animals, improve efficiency and create more stable pond-level control.