Former President Carter leases 10 acres of his farmland to build 1.3-megawatt solar power station
Former President Jimmy Carter’s advocacy for renewable energy is rooted in this tiny community, and on Wednesday those roots bore the fruit of a 1.3-megawatt solar energy station that will provide more than half of Plains’ power.
Along with wife Rosalynn, grandson Jason and representatives from SolAmerica and Georgia Power, Carter took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly operational solar farm in Plains.
A long-time advocate for renewable energy, Carter leased the 10-acre site in his hometown to solar energy company SolAmerica, which has developed the 1.3-megawatt station that is expected to provide more than 50 percent of the electricity for the city.
“Rosalynn and I are very pleased to be a part of SolAmerica’s exciting solar project in Plains,” said Carter in a press release about the project. “Distributed, clean energy generation is critical to meeting growing energy needs around the world while fighting the effects of climate change. I am encouraged by the tremendous progress that solar and other clean energy solutions have made in recent years and expect those trends to continue.”
Carter explained at the ceremony that because of his humble, agriculturally-rooted childhood, he saw the importance of renewable energy at an early age.
“I first became acquainted with renewable energy when I was 11 years old,” the former president said. “We lived in a home west of Plains, about two and a half miles. We didn’t have electricity in our house. We didn’t have running water in our house, and my daddy installed a windmill. We then had an indoor bathroom for the first time and a shower bath. My daddy punched holes in the bottom of a tin bucket. Water would pour in the bucket and dribble out on us, so that was our shower bath. That was a very great improvement in my life depending on energy from the sun for wind power.”
According to Carter, during his time as governor and later as president, the importance of developing renewable energy generation became a clear reality for him and a longterm goal that he is now seeing come to fruition.
“When I got elected president, I was very eager to see this done, but I even learned about the need for (renewable energy) in an international political way when I was governor,” Carter said. “Richard Nixon was president, and as you may or may not remember, back in those days we had an Arab boycott against America, and they refused to send us oil that we needed for gasoline and other purposes. When I was governor, we had very tight restraints on gasoline purchases in America, so when I got to be president, I was very eager to do something about it if I could.”
Carter, as president, created the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and signed the Public Utility Regulatory Act, all of which were catalysts for the advancement of renewable energy in the U.S.
Carter was also the first president to put solar panels on the White House, which were later removed by Ronald Reagan.
“With the help of Congress, we approved an energy department as well as an education department,” Carter said Wednesday. “We allotted a great deal of money, several billions of dollars, for research and development in energy. A lot of people have asked me lately, ‘We know what Reagan did when he took over and removed the panels, but what do you think President Trump’s going to do?’ And I don’t really know yet.
“I haven’t talked to (Trump) about this specifically, but while I was in the White House, as you may know, there was a lot of economic problems in the whole world. However, during my administration, we had a great increase in jobs in America. In fact, no other president has had more per year than we did, and a lot of those jobs came from renewable energy, the search for a way to use wind and energy from the sun directly and otherwise. That is a good opportunity for President Trump to look at and see how we can produce a lot of jobs in America just by increasing our production of renewable energy.”
The single axis tracker (which tracks the sun) solar array installed on Carter’s property is projected to produce more than 55 million kilowatt hours of clean energy for Plains over the next 25 years, powering at least 200 of the town’s 215 homes.