Wednesday, the first day of the Association of Energy Engineers' World Energy Engineering Congress meeting in Atlanta, the company outlined a proposal it made in September to take on 210 megawatts of solar capacity. It would replace the same amount of biomass generation that fell through after authorization.
The Georgia Public Service Commission has 60 days to consider the request, and the company hopes to begin the program in February.
"This is our most exciting time for solar," said Ervan Hancock, manager of the utility's renewable-energy program.
The proposal is to dedicate blocks of capacity to small, medium and large producers to help stimulate the market for each level. The smallest producers are likely to be homeowners who have solar panels on their roof for their own electricity and who want to sell what's extra.
Critics in the state's budding solar industry say that approach doesn't go far enough. They want to change state law that grants Georgia Power a monopoly so that developers would have authority to sell electricity to retail customers, such as a building owner who leases their roof space to the developer.
Georgia Power opposes changing the law, warning that it could disrupt the integrity of the electricity system if unregulated companies are dumping surges onto the power grid and cutting it off in unpredictable ways.
The company gained support for its position during Wednesday's conference from the industry expert selected by conference organizers to moderate the discussion on renewable energy, Ryan Park, director of business development for REC Solar, a California-based installer of photovoltaic panels.
Georgia Power's proposal is more likely to advance solar installations because the 20-year contracts it is offering provide investors assurances they're seeking before lending to anyone wanting to put up generating panels, he said. That approach helped Germany's solar industry blossom, he said.
Banks and owners of large real-estate holdings are reluctant to invest in solar projects for tenants who may have shaky credit or move out, he said.
"But they're happy if that power is going on to the utility, someone they believe will definitely be there for the decades to come," Park said. "So, the way this program is designed is the way ... to really move this industry forward."