Solar Power goes on tour - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Solar Power goes on tour

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A solar panel on display on the Sam's Shortline Train.  The Georgia Solar Energy Association is a group which promotes solar energy through advocacy and education. A solar panel on display on the Sam's Shortline Train. The Georgia Solar Energy Association is a group which promotes solar energy through advocacy and education.
This panel from Mage Solar was on display at the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie.  Mage is based in Dublin. This panel from Mage Solar was on display at the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie. Mage is based in Dublin.
The Sam's Shortline Train leaves Leslie on it's way to Plains.  About 200 people were on the tour that highlighted solar energy. The Sam's Shortline Train leaves Leslie on it's way to Plains. About 200 people were on the tour that highlighted solar energy.
Radiance Solar was another exhibitor on the Solar Express tour. Radiance Solar was another exhibitor on the Solar Express tour.
A sign at Plains Peanuts welcomes the solar train express to the town.  The idea for the tour was from the Polar Express movie that Tim Echols' kids had enjoyed when it was released in theatres. A sign at Plains Peanuts welcomes the solar train express to the town. The idea for the tour was from the Polar Express movie that Tim Echols' kids had enjoyed when it was released in theatres.

The state of Georgia receives enough solar energy each day to power millions of homes for an entire year.

The question has always been how to tap into that energy.  After all, the strong south Georgia sun can have its benefits.

Tim Echols of the Public Service Commission tells us about one of those benefits: "there's so much energy that the sun can provide for us."

To harness the power of the sun, solar projects need land.  Today, hundreds of people from all over the state saw some of that land, as they took the train from Cordele to Plains and back.

Since 2002, Sam's Shortline has been ferrying passengers from Cordele all the way over to Archery and the Carter Farm, but today they were highlighting some new technologies.  Technologies that will take Georgia into its energy future.

The first stop was in Leslie at the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum.  That was followed by a trip to Plains, where the riders heard presentations about projects that have already been completed.  The stops were no accident.

"I had taken the tour", said Echols.

"I knew that the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum had that first solar ever deployed in Georgia in 1955.  And of course, here in Plains with President Carter to be the first president to put solar on the White House."

South Georgia has already seen some recent solar projects, and a consortium of local power companies have already gotten together for another project.

Steve Rentfrow of the Crisp County Power Commission said, "we all each put up a 5 kW photovoltaic system and a solar hot water system."

But to get solar to be a real part of the energy solution of the future, there have to be some incentives to offset the initial cost of going solar.  That's where the state can - and has - helped out.

Echols said, "our legislature doubled the incentive this year."

But the next step is to keep up the commitment to alternative sources of energy, not easy in tough economic times.  Commissioner Echols is optimistic though.

"I really think that the legislature will continue to grow that pool of money to allow people to access that state tax credit," he said.

More alternative energy projects in South Georgia could lead to more jobs for the people here.  And if that happens, then the Heart of Georgia could become the heart of Georgia's solar industry in the future. 

Georgia ranks 10th in potential from solar power, but only 38th in the number of systems connected to the energy grid.

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