Georgia, located at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains, has the largest land area of any state east of the Mississippi River. The state’s elevations decrease from almost 5,000 feet in the mountains to sea level along its Atlantic Coast. The rolling hills of the Piedmont region, south and east of the Blue Ridge, flatten out to Georgia’s broad coastal plains. The coastal region is warm and humid much of the year. Rainfall typically decreases further inland, but the higher elevations of the Blue Ridge capture moisture and often receive winter snows as well as rain.
Most of the energy produced in Georgia comes from nuclear power and biomass.
Nearly three-fifths of the energy produced in Georgia comes from nuclear power, and much of the rest comes from biomass. Despite its location near the Appalachian coalfields and oil and natural gas basins, Georgia does not have any appreciable fossil fuel resources. However, the state does have renewable energy potential. With two-thirds of the state forested, there is abundant biomass potential in Georgia. Onshore wind resources offer minimal wind energy potential across the southern half of the state, but Blue Ridge crests in the north have moderate potential. Although Georgia has only about 100 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline, its offshore waters have large areas with good wind resources in shallow depths close to both land and transmission grid access. The state’s coastal plain occupies the southern half of the state and is the location of most of Georgia’s natural lakes. The state’s larger, man-made lakes and reservoirs are concentrated in the river valleys of the north. Many of the larger reservoirs provide hydroelectric power, and a small amount of additional hydroelectric potential exists in the state.
Georgia is the nation’s eighth most populous state, and its share of the nation’s total energy consumption is nearly the same as its share of the nation’s population.However, energy consumption per capita is below the national average. Transportation is the leading energy-consuming end-use sector, followed by the industrial sector. Georgia has several energy-intensive industries, including the manufacture of chemicals, paper, and metals.
Three-fifths of Georgia’s net renewable electricity generation comes from biomass. The state is a national leader in the use of wood and wood waste for electricity generation. Ranked first in the nation in commercial timberland, Georgia has 25 million acres of forest covering two-thirds of the state. More than a dozen wood pellet plants in the state can export pellets to supply renewable fuel to European power plants. Georgia also has five biodiesel plants and two ethanol plants; the state can produce up to 46 million gallons of biodiesel and more than 100 million gallons of ethanol each year.
Nearly all the rest of Georgia’s net renewable generation comes from hydroelectricity. Georgia is one of the 10 largest hydroelectric power producers east of the Rocky Mountains. The state has 14 river basins and thousands of dams, some of which provide hydroelectric power. The Chattahoochee River, the most heavily used water resource in the state, has 13 hydroelectric dams that were constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Georgia Power, the state’s largest electric utility, has another 19 hydroelectric dams at locations across the state.
Georgia does not have a renewable energy portfolio standard, but state regulators have required Georgia Power to install 525 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity before 2017, including some distributed (small-scale customer-sited) solar capacity. In 2015, 248 megawatts of utility-scale and distributed solar PV capacity were installed statewide, increasing the state’s total capacity more than five-fold. One-third of Georgia’s net solar generation in 2015 came from distributed resources like rooftop solar PV panels, and two-thirds came from utility-scale resources. The state’s net metering rule credits customers for kilowatthours generated with distributed resources at the avoided wholesale cost of electricity, not the retail cost used in some other states. Georgia has put in place energy standards for public buildings, interconnection guidelines, and solar easement regulations.
Georgia also has renewable potential from offshore wind resources. There are no wind projects online in Georgia, but several manufacturers located in the state make products for the wind industry.
Coal-fired power plants historically fueled nearly two-thirds of net electricity generation in Georgia. However, since 2008, as natural gas became more economical and as coal-fired power plants were retired, natural gas has accounted for an increasing share of the state’s net electricity generation. In 2015, for the first time, natural gas was the largest source of generation, supplying two-fifths of Georgia’s net electricity generation. Coal supplied less than three-tenths.
Two new nuclear reactors under construction at an existing plant in Georgia are the first to be approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 30 years.
Georgia’s two nuclear power plants, both located in the eastern part of the state, typically provide one-fourth of the state’s net electricity generation. In recent years, the four reactors at those two plants have received physical modifications to increase generating capacity. Two new reactors, being built at the existing Vogtle nuclear plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, are the first new reactors approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 30 years. The state’s remaining net electricity generation is provided primarily by biomass and hydroelectric power.
More than two-fifths of the electricity sales in Georgia are to the residential sector, where more than half of the households use electricity for heating. With the state’s hot, humid summers, almost all Georgia households have air conditioning.
Georgia’s Elba Island LNG import terminal has federal approvals to add LNG export capability.
Georgia does not have any natural gas reserves or production. The state receives all of its natural gas supply by interstate pipelines and from other countries through the Elba Island liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal. LNG imports have arrived from a variety of countries in the past few years, including Trinidad and Tobago, Qatar, and Egypt. Import volumes have decreased substantially since 2010. Elba Island has received federal government approvals to build liquefaction and terminal facilities so it can export as well as import LNG. Slightly more than two-fifths of the natural gas received in Georgia is consumed in the state. The rest of the natural gas entering Georgia moves on to other states, primarily to South Carolina on the way to markets further north.
Since 2009, the largest share of natural gas delivered to end users in Georgia has gone to the electric power generating sector. Deliveries to that sector have doubled since 2010, while consumption in the other end-use sectors has remained relatively stable. About two-fifths of Georgia households use natural gas for home heating, but the winters are mild, and per capita natural gas use by Georgia’s residential sector is below the national average.
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