The interest and demand for solar energy, a renewable and eco-friendly way of powering your home or business, has been increasing in Georgia within the past decade. Georgia is one of the nation’s top solar markets, ranked 15th in installed solar capacity by the Solar Energy Industries Association. However, the upfront costs of installing solar panels (typically between eighteen-thousand to twenty-five thousand dollars) have discouraged many Savannah businesses from doing so.
The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015, also known as House Bill 57, was signed and passed on May 12, 2015. This Act enables leasing and power-purchase agreements (PPAs) which lessen the impact of solar panel costs for homeowners across Georgia. Another common term used to describe these agreements is solar energy procurement agreements (SEPAs). The bill allows businesses and homeowners to finance the cost of construction of solar panels while paying back the investment over time through their energy savings from using solar.
What if your solar panels generate more electricity than is needed? You can then sell back the surplus energy to service providers.
The Nitty-Gritty Details about House Bill 57
There are, of course, a few rules and regulations that all businesses and homeowners must abide by:
- You must own or operate the property in which you are using the power from the system.
- Any SEPA or PPA must be based on the output or performance of the solar technology system installed.
- The design capacity of the solar technology must be below the capacity limit. For businesses, this is no more than 125% of the actual, or expected, greatest annual peak demand of the property the solar system serves.
- The solar technology must meet all code requirements (National Electrical Code, National Electrical Safety Code, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Underwriters Laboratories) and comply with state laws.
- Your solar system must connect on “either side of the meter” to the provider’s distribution system.
- You must notify your local electrical utility company at least 30 days prior to the operation of your solar system.
It’s important to note that local electric utility companies are forbidden under the law to interfere with the installation, financing or operation of solar systems under SEPAs. They are also forbidden to impose any unnecessary requirements for connecting to the energy grid that go beyond those established by the National Electrical Code.
The Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act should open up the doors to more businesses and homeowners installing solar panels — a win-win for the environment and the economy.