The Georgia Public Service Commission on Tuesday approved a massive solar project north of Robins Air Force Base that will cover hundreds of acres.
Construction is expected to begin sometime next year, said Norrie McKenzie, Georgia Power’s vice president of renewable development, in an announcement at the Museum of Aviation following the PSC approval.
The array would go online in 2019 and would generate 139 megawatts of electricity. Georgia Power will spend $200 million to build the facility.
He said the project will help Robins meet its goal for alternative energy. It is the company’s sixth solar facility connected to a military base, and McKenzie said it will be “by far” the largest. While it will provide power to the overall power grid, during times of grid outage it will be able to directly power the base, McKenzie said.
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The project will be built on about 870 acres purchased to reduce housing in a zone north of the base considered at risk for aircraft crashes and excessive noise, referred to as the encroachment zone.
“Little did we know when the encroachment process began that it would conclude with greater importance to Robins Air Force Base today,” said Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker. “None of us had the idea when this process started that we would be here today celebrating the project that we are celebrating.”
The announcement was attended by elected officials from across Middle Georgia, including Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert, all three mayors in Houston County, Fort Valley Mayor Barbara Williams and Jones County Commission Chairman Chris Weidner.
It’s not the first time Georgia Power has announced a solar array connected to Robins. In 2014 the company announced an array would be built on 57 acres on the south end of the base. Bulldozers cleared trees but the array was never built.
McKenzie said the new project is different. The previous project was done under a contract in which another company was to build it and Georgia Power would buy the energy produced. The project fell apart when the builder failed to meet milestones in the contract, he said. With this one, he said, Georgia Power will own the array.
“This one is going to happen,” he said.
He said that as a part of the project, a substation on the base that feeds the entire base will be rebuilt. The array will connect to that substation.
“That’s how it enhances the energy security and resiliency of the base,” he said.
The land is owned by the Central Georgia Joint Development Authority, which is part of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission, a state agency. Georgia Power will use the land at a no-cost lease, said John Kraft, Georgia Power spokesman. The deal relieves the authority of the responsibility of maintaining the property, which has restricted use, and the company will pay annual property taxes over the life of the project, Kraft said.