Among the changes are the first nuclear reactors to be built in the U.S. since the infamous Three Mile Island incident.
Along with that, natural gas-powered power generation plants in Atlanta are coming online. So for Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond manager Tracy Hawkins, it’s an exciting time to be in the utilities business.
“There are all kinds of things that can be applied to the smart grid,” Hawkins said. “But what we did at Southern Company is we took it beyond the grid.”
Hawkins spoke to the Seven Hills Rotary Club on Tuesday, talking up Southern Co.’s strategy of smart energy.
She said the goal for Georgia Power’s parent company is to combine smart grid technologies, like the 2 million smart meters on Georgia households, with a combination of power generation sources that will allow Southern Co. to not only to continue to reliably supply electricity, but also to help the company and the consumer save more money.
Hawkins said the nuclear power reactors at Plant Vogtle are scheduled to come online in 2016 and 2017. She said the manpower needed to run the units will generate 800 new jobs in Georgia and that thousands of construction jobs will also be created in the process. She also discussed the gas-powered plants in the Atlanta area -— one of which is currently online and the other in the final stages before it goes into full production.
“They’re replacing older coal units that we’ve retired,” she said. “They’re all roughly 800 to 900 megawatts and are producing a lot of power right now because gas prices are so cheap.”
Renewable sources will also be a part of Georgia Power’s future, with solar being one of the likely leading candidates being developed by Southern Co. Hawkins said there are challenges with renewable energy, but Georgia Power is still researching the potential of new technologies, like a solar film that can be put on rooftops and provide power.
“We’re trying to figure out how we can incorporate solar in with our weather patterns,” she said.
One of the biggest parts of their smarter energy efforts have been the installation of smart meters on houses in Georgia. Hawkins said that at least 85 percent of Georgia Power household customers had one installed and that it provides great benefit to the company in terms of saved mileage on trucks and man hours, and being able to find out which houses have power and which don’t in areas that might have been hit with destructive weather.
“Smart meters are a way for us to move into the future and avoid hackers on meters, to avoid cyber security problems and ultimately reduce our costs,” she said.