Columbus may be on the verge of its first solar farm.
George Mori, president of an Atlanta-based company called SoLAmerica Energy, appeared before Columbus Council recently with a proposal to develop what he called “an urban solar farm” on under-utilized property owned by the city just west of Technology Parkway and south of the Muscogee County Prison on Schatulga Road.
Deputy City Manager Pam Hodge said the city is currently working on an agreement with the Development Authority of Columbus to lease the 22-acre site. If approved by Council, the solar farm would generate $25,000 in city revenue annually from leasing and taxes, she said. The city is considering a 35-year lease agreement with the Development Authority, which would sublease the property to SoLAmerica.
The project would be something new for the area, Hodge told city councilors. “We don’t have any solar farms in the city of Columbus.”
City Manager Isaiah Hugley said city staff would return to Council at the Nov. 28 meeting for approval.
Mori said SoLAmerica is a solar energy development company, focusing on projects that not only supply commercial customers, but also utilities companies. He said the company already has developed a solar farm on former President Jimmy Carter’s land in Plains, Ga., and has been working on projects with Georgia Power in other areas.
“In this instance, we have proposed to enter into a long-term agreement with the Development Authority to lease property for the development of a solar farm that would supply energy to Georgia Power’s grid at this location,” he said. “... The project here is one that we’re very excited about because it goes to something, which our company focuses on, which is finding under-utilized properties in locations that can be utilized effectively for solar energy.”
He said the typography of the land is best suited for a single access tracker system, which includes motors that power the rods that support the solar panels. The panels start in the east where the sun rises and the motors tilt them to the west, tracking the sun throughout the day.
“The advantage of these projects is they produce more power and the fact that they track the sun,” he said, comparing it to another system used by some companies. “They are more costly and of course that’s to the city/county’s benefit from a tax revenue standpoint.”
The project would be developed up to 2 megawatts in size under the Georgia Power Renewable Energy Development Initiative, Mori said. It would provide enough solar energy to power about 265 home annually.
Mori said the location is ideal for the project, and he believes it will benefit the community.
“It’s in an area that’s got a lot going on in the city of Columbus, right there along Technology Parkway,” he said, “where the city is working to recruit lots of large employers who also are very driven to embrace things around clean energy, renewable energy these days.”