Georgia’s newest large-scale solar energy project cuts ribbon

Published 9:27 am Wednesday, November 24, 2021

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Wednesday, November 17, was an exciting day for Decatur County, as state and local leaders joined executives from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC and Georgia Power to celebrate the commissioning of the state’s newest large-scale solar energy project – the Cool Springs Solar Energy Center.

Officials were welcomed in by the Bainbridge High School Band and Senior Project Manager and Development of NextEra Energy Resources, Griffin Leone.

“We are excited to share this historic moment and occasion with all you,” Leone said, before asking everyone to rise for BHS ROTC presentation of the colors and National Anthem.

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Following the National Anthem, Leone thanked everyone who made the project possible.

“While the site officially opens today, we all know it’s been years in the making to get here,” he said. “I would like to thank the community for giving our project team such a warm welcome. This community and its business owners have been wonderful to work with and we are very excited to be here with you all.”

Leone specifically thanked the land owners who were willing to lease their land to NextEra Energy Resources and the Murray family, who was kind enough to host executives from NextEra Energy Resources.

Following a round of applause, Leone introduced Stuart McCurdy, Vice President of Development for NextEra Energy Resources.

McCurdy echoed Leone’s statements, saying he couldn’t think of a time he encountered a community as welcoming as Decatur County.

“It’s always a partnership between the community and what their needs are,” he said. “We are pleased to work with Georgia Power and Decatur County to bring online Georgia’s newest solar energy center. This solar energy project will generate low-cost, homegrown energy and provide millions of dollars in additional tax revenue to Decatur County over the life of the project.”

The Cool Springs Solar Energy Center spans approximately 1,400 acres in the town of Bainbridge, Ga., and will generate up to 213 megawatts of solar energy. The project also contains a 40-megawatt battery storage system that will deliver solar energy more closely aligned with the needs of Georgia Power. Construction lasted 17 months and generated a significant economic boost to Decatur County and the state, creating 350 construction jobs and stimulating the purchase of regional goods and services from local vendors.

Georgia’s newest solar energy project features more than 700,000 photovoltaic solar panels that convert the sun’s energy into electricity. A subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources built, owns and will operate the project. The energy will serve Georgia Power customers under a 30-year power purchase agreement.

Southwest Regional Director of Georgia Power Joseph Brownlee was at the ceremony to speak on what this partnership meant to their business.

“Almost 40 years ago today, I got hired by Georgia Power and I never could’ve imagined that 40 years later we would be cutting a ribbon on a solar panel,” Brownlee said. “Who even knew what a solar panel was 40 years ago?”

Brownlee went on to say that while 40 years ago, Georgia Power had no idea where solar might be headed, they are really looking forward to the partnership.

“The 40-megawatt battery storage is a game changer for us,” Brownlee said. “Georgia Power put out an IRP in 2016, and part of that was we wanted 1,050 megawatts of solar. That was a big number then and we were scared we couldn’t pull it off, but we found partners like NextEra Energy.”

Over the next 30 years, the Cool Springs Solar Energy Center is expected to generate nearly $14 million in additional revenue for Decatur County, something Decatur County could’ve only dreamed of years ago.

“The Cool Springs Solar Energy Center has been a success for our community from the start,” said Pete Stephens, chairman of the Decatur County Board of Commissioners. “Our community is already seeing positive economic impact and we are thrilled this project will be a part of the community for the next three decades, generating homegrown energy and additional tax revenue. I am confident it will help make our county an even better place to live and raise a family.”

With a thunderous round of applause concluding the speeches, the speakers then moved out to the solar panels, where they cut the ribbon and officially opened the Cool Springs Solar Energy Center