Energy Industry FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to the most common customer questions here. Seach by category and learn about the different energy sources.

Power Lines & Substations

How does the community benefit from new substations and transmission lines?

These projects help ensure that the growing communities around our state continue to have reliable electric service.

Will the electricity bills of area residents and other ratepayers increase because of these projects?

These costs are a part of Georgia Power's normal capital improvement budget and are eventually added into the overall rate base. Project costs will not be included in the rate base until the facility actually goes into service. Even then, rates will only change when the Georgia Public Service Commission approves a base rate case.

Will Georgia Power pay for any damage to my property that may occur because of crews working on substation or transmission projects?

Georgia Power will accept responsibility for any property damage and will repair, restore or replace any structures or landscaping disrupted during the construction process. After construction, Georgia Power will leave the area clear and in good condition.

Why are you doing this work in just certain areas and not statewide?

Georgia Power, like other utilities, is doing work similar to this all across Georgia where customer growth is occurring and electricity use is increasing.

How does Georgia Power choose the sites for new substations and power lines?

A Georgia Power site selection committee comprised of engineers, land experts and other personnel chooses the best practical site for a substation and route for distribution and/or transmission lines. During the process of selecting a site or route, Georgia Power does not know the property owners' names. This ensures that we select routes and sites without bias to any individual property owner. Some of the factors considered include:

  • Community Impact
  • Safety
  • Environmental Issues
  • Reliability
  • Sound Engineering
  • Cost-Effectiveness
  • Aesthetics

How many property owners will the new lines and substation affect?

Georgia Power seeks to minimize the impact to property owners when siting new infrastructure. We use existing facilities wherever possible along public rights-of-way. The company will often place new substations adjacent to an existing transmission line, ensuring we have to purchase little, if any, new rights-of-way. We frequently use vegetation, screening walls and berms to screen substations and minimize the visual impact of the substation to existing neighborhoods.

How do you ensure the safety of residents, children and pets while the work is ongoing?

During construction of underground distribution lines, no ditches are left open without proper barricades or covers. We build substations behind a fenced enclosure and post warning signs on our energized equipment. Despite these safety measures, we urge you to caution others—especially children—never to go near electric facilities.

What effect will electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from substations or power lines have on the health of residents?

Research by the scientific community over several decades has found no conclusive evidence to indicate the fields from transmission lines such as these cause or contribute to adverse health effects. Georgia Power continues to monitor research in this area. If you would like more information, please contact us or review online reports from a number of reputable scientific organizations online:

How can we find out more information about a project under construction?

This website aims to be a primary source of information for our customers. If you have questions about a project that is not listed, you may still contact us.

Solar

General Questions

Can I install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels at my home or business?

Yes, as long as the location selected is clear of obstructions that will block the sunlight. Some shading may be unavoidable, but you want it to have direct sunlight most of the time. Please visit our Solar page to learn more.

Are Georgia Power and Southern Company testing different solar technologies?

Yes, Southern Company and EPRI are currently testing multiple PV technologies in Georgia and across our territory. See our solar projects page for examples.

How do solar panels generate electricity?

Solar panels absorb energy from the sun by way of a semiconductor (typically silicon) and generate a direct current electrical source. An inverter is used to convert the source to an alternating current source. Learn more about How Solar Works.

How can I use solar panels to power my house at night?

Battery storage may be ideal for some small Scale PV systems. However, this method requires additional maintenance, and can be costly. Most customers remain connected to the grid for access to continuous, reliable electricity at all times.

How do PV technologies differ?

Some of the key ways solar PV technologies differ is by temperature coefficient and efficiency. The temperature coefficient represents the relative change in power output with respect to the ambient temperature. Solar panel efficiency is related to the quality of the panels and solar cell technology (monocrystalline, polycrystalline, thin film). Panel efficiency commonly ranges from 12-21 percent with respect to the cell technology.

What size PV system do I need to power my home or business?

PV system size is directly related to how much generation you need and the available area you have. By observing your monthly and annual usage, you can calculate your ideal PV system size.

How much does a typical installed PV system cost?

The installed cost of solar PV systems can range from $2,000 – $4,000 per kW depending on multiple factors, including technology, location, size of the installation.

How long does a typical solar panel last?

Most solar panels are under warranty to produce 80 percent efficiency for 20-25 years, though some panels have been known to perform for more than 40 years.

Can I install my PV system on my house myself?

Georgia Power recommends that you use professional installer for PV installations. Compliance with local building and electrical codes may be required.

How much space is required for a 4 kW PV system?

A good area estimate is about 60 square feet per kW or about 240 square feet for a 4 kW system. This varies for each solar panel.

Is maintenance required for PV systems?

Yes, minimal maintenance is required. To ensure maximum output, panels should be cleaned of debris and anything else that can block the sun. Some components may need regular inspection by a professional.

Can cloudy days impact solar panel effectiveness?

Yes, clouds can diffuse and/or block sunlight. This will restrict the amount of sunlight absorbed by the solar panels and can reduce the energy output by 40-90 percent.

Where can I find a licensed contractor to install my solar panels or solar water heater?

Georgia Power recommends using a solar installer who is certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Visit their website to learn more about NABCEP and find certified professionals in Georgia. We're also available to help with your installation through our Solar Programs

What kind of questions should I ask when choosing an installer?

In addition to price, consider the following factors when selecting a renewable energy installer.

  • Is the company certified?
  • Is the company experienced?
  • Will the company provide a copy of their current business license?
  • Does the company have any judgments or liens?
  • Will the company provide references?
  • Does the company have a record with the Better Business Bureau?
  • How many systems has the company installed in the last year?
  • How long will the installation process take?
  • How long will the company monitor the installations after they are completed?
  • What is the warranty period? What does it cover?
  • What repair services are offered? What are the rates?
  • What type of operation or maintenance training is available?

Does Georgia Power sell solar systems or recommend specific systems?

Please visit our Solar page to find out more about partnering with Georgia Power on your solar installation. You can also check with qualified installers through NABCEP for their recommendations on the correct system to meet your needs.

How much is the federal tax credit for customers?

An uncapped 30 percent Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is available to homeowners for solar equipment placed in service by December 31, 2019. The tax credit will be 26 percent for systems placed in service in 2020, 22 percent for systems in service in 2021, and 0 percent for systems in service after 2021. For commercial systems placed in service after 2021, the tax credit will be 10 percent (Business ITC). Find information about tax incentives at the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy and Energy.gov. Please consult your tax advisor to determine how this federal incentive may apply to your particular circumstances.

Nuclear

What is nuclear fission?

Fission is the splitting of atoms into smaller parts.  Some atoms split when they are struck by even smaller particles, called neutrons. Fission occurs when a uranium or plutonium atom absorbs a neutron and the atom splits. In the process, the atom produces additional neutrons (an average of 2.5 each fission), which go on to split more U-235 and Pu-239 atoms, which create more neutrons, and so on. The result is a chain reaction.

In a nuclear power plant, the chain reaction is controlled to keep it from releasing too much energy too fast. In this way, the chain reaction continues for a long time.

When a uranium atom is split, it releases a large amount of energy in the form of heat. This heat transfers to the water that is continuously flowing through the reactor, causing it to boil water and create steam. The pressure of the expanding steam turns a turbine that is connected to a generator. In a nuclear energy facility: heat is created to boil water, create steam and turn the turbine which spins the generator. The whirling magnetic field of the generator produces electricity.

What is uranium, and where does it come from?

Uranium is a radioactive element found in natural ores. Deposits of these ores are found in the western United States, Canada and Australia, among other locations.

Uranium recovery focuses on extracting (or mining) natural uranium ore from the Earth and concentrating (or milling) that ore. These recovery operations produce a product called "yellowcake" that is transformed into fuel for nuclear power reactors. 

The next step is converting the yellowcake into pure uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas suitable for use in enrichment operations. During this conversion, impurities are removed and the uranium is combined with fluorine to create the UF6 gas. The UF6 is then pressurized and cooled to a liquid. In its liquid state, it is drained into 14-ton cylinders where it solidifies after cooling for approximately five days. The UF6 cylinder in the solid form is then shipped to an enrichment plant.

Enriching uranium increases the proportion of uranium atoms that can be "split" by fission to release energy (in the form of heat) that can be used to produce electricity.

The fuel for nuclear reactors has to have a higher concentration of U235 than exists in natural uranium ore. This is because U235 is "fissionable," meaning that it starts a nuclear reaction and keeps it going. Normally, the amount of the U235 isotope is enriched from 0.7% of the uranium mass to about 5%.

What is the white cloud seen coming from Georgia's nuclear power plants?

The cloud coming from the cooling towers is simply water vapor or steam. The steam contains no radiation or other harmful emissions. After the steam completes the electricity generation process, it enters a condenser where it is cooled back into water for reuse. Cooling water supplied from the cooling towers flows through pipes within the condenser. 

This external cooling water never comes in physical contact with the steam. It is warmed in the condenser and returned to the cooling tower a warmer temperature than when it was removed. The excess heat is given up to the atmosphere as steam.

 

How much radiation are Georgia’s residents exposed to as a result of nuclear energy facilities?

Federal regulations require a detailed assessment of environmental impacts associated with a nuclear energy facility before it can be licensed to operate. Because an unintentional leak of radioactivity from nuclear plants is possible, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) evaluates the potential impact of such leakage during the initial plant licensing process. The NRC conducted environmental assessments for all 104 operating reactors and is doing so for new reactors now in the licensing phase. Electric power companies that operate nuclear energy facilities must begin radiological environmental monitoring at least three years before the plant begins operation, and must continue monitoring throughout the plant's lifetime.

Because radiation is naturally present in the environment, pre-operational monitoring establishes a baseline against which plant staff and the regulator can compare subsequent measurements. The federal limit for annual radiation dose to the public from nuclear plant operations is 25 millirem. A REM (Roentgen Equivalent Man) is a unit of radiation exposure that indicates potential biological effect on human cells. A millirem is equal to one-thousandth of a rem. The average person receives about 300 millirems annually of naturally occurring background radiation from soil, rocks, consumer products, medical procedures, etc. 

The average actual dose to the public from a nuclear power plant is about 2 millirem less than 10% of the regulatory limit. Nuclear plants also are required to conduct radiological monitoring of air, water, land, food and produce grown near nuclear energy facilities.

How is nuclear energy regulated in Georgia?

Nuclear power generation is one of the most highly-regulated industries in the country.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is responsible for oversight of all nuclear plant operations, including licensing and regulating nuclear facilities and materials.  These responsibilities include protecting public health and safety, protecting the environment, and protecting and safeguarding nuclear materials and nuclear power plants in the interest of national security. NRC resident inspectors are on duty at each nuclear facility and have unrestricted access to the facility. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for setting standards for off-site emergency preparedness programs and assessing their effectiveness.  FEMA's Radiological Emergency Preparedness Program provides assistance to state and local governments in developing emergency plans for nuclear energy facilities, and coordinating response actions among the various agencies. The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) oversees the operations at all Georgia Power generating plants in the state, no matter the fuel source, as they relate to costs and expenses allowed into rate base and charged to Georgia residents. A multitude of additional agencies have oversight of specific activities at nuclear plants, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Homeland Security and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

 

How does Georgia Power store used nuclear fuel?

When used fuel is removed from a nuclear reactor, it is initially stored in steel-lined concrete vaults filled with water. The water cools the fuel while it decays and becomes less radioactive.

The federal government made a statutory and contractual commitment to begin accepting possession of all used fuel from nuclear power plant sites in 1998 for permanent storage in a central repository. Without that central repository, many nuclear plants have needed to supplement their storage capacity with above-ground, dry storage facilities.

As the used nuclear fuel cools, the fuel rods that have been stored longest in the spent fuel pools are moved to massive concrete and steel sealed containers that have been tested for safety and durability. Spent fuel rods can remain in these canisters for as long as necessary while the federal government reviews various long-term storage options. Plant Hatch and Plant Vogtle current use dry storage facilities.

What are Georgia Power's safety systems?

All nuclear plants are designed with defense-in-depth safety systems (multiple passive and active safety systems) in place to protect the reactor and the surrounding public.

Passive systems include physical barriers that would restrict the spread of contamination outside the primary systems. These include such barriers as the fuel's zirconium alloy cladding, the thickness of the reactor vessel and the concrete containment surrounding it.

Active systems are designed to ensure continuous core cooling and safe plant shutdown in the event of an accident. Some of these include the reactor protection system designed to automatically shut down the reactor if needed, multiple core cooling systems designed to replenish cooling water in the reactor if normal cooling water is lost, and containment isolation systems that can close all openings from the containment building to the outside.  

Additional redundant systems are in place to detect and mitigate any condition that could pose a threat the public.

Why is nuclear energy used over renewable sources?

Southern Company uses a variety of fuels for power generation rather than rely too heavily on one resource. With this approach, unexpected supply disruptions or price spikes for one fuel do not inhibit our ability to supply electricity to our customers. 

What effect will the addition of a new or expanded nuclear plant have on the environment? What are the environmental benefits of nuclear power in Georgia?

Nuclear energy is the largest clean-air energy source and the only one that can produce large amounts of electricity around the clock. Nuclear energy accounts for nearly three-fourths of all U.S. generating capacity that emits no greenhouse gases. 

Vogtle units 3 and 4 will cut annual carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 3.5 million cars off the road. Even when carbon dioxide emissions are evaluated on a total life-cycle basis, nuclear energy is comparable to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

Specifically in Georgia for 2011 (more recent statistic?) nuclear power generation allowed us to avoid more than 64,000 short tons of sulfur dioxide emissions, 21,000 short tons of nitrogen oxide emissions and 25.18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions versus the use of other fuel sources.

What are the economic benefits of nuclear power in Georgia?

Nuclear power will provide Georgia residents with reliable, long-term, clean, safe energy for years to come. The two new units at Vogtle represent a $14 billion capital investment in Georgia and the creation of 5,000 onsite jobs during construction and 800 high-paying permanent jobs. This investment will translate into significant increases in state and county taxes paid. The facility provides $2.2 billion more value to customers than the next best available technology. Additionally, Georgia Power is in position to provide customers with up to $2 billion in other potential benefits. These savings are related to recovery of financing costs during construction, DOE loan guarantees, production tax credits, lower-than-forecast interest rates and lower-than-forecast commodity costs.

How could nuclear energy reduce our dependence on foreign oil?

As a large-scale source of electric generation, nuclear power is a way to generate clean, reliable energy in this country. The fuel source uranium is available in the United States and in allied countries.