Study every way to end energy woes

You may not have noticed until high prices and shortages hit the gas pumps, but an energy supply crisis has been looming.

When it comes to electricity, we've been forecasting for quite a while that our state's supply strategy can't stay on the same course if we want to enjoy the level of service and reliability we've grown accustomed to.

Georgia's population is booming. Common sense dictates that we need to develop more electricity generating resources. Experts calculate that our state's population will grow 17 percent this decade alone.

So the math tells us we need 17 percent more generating capacity, right?

Wrong. Because each one of us is using more electricity, demand is forecast to grow a whopping 39 percent. That's more than double the rate of population growth.

We can't increase electricity use without increasing the supply. It's physically impossible.

Yet there are those who are adamantly against expanding traditional power generation resources. But a narrow approach won't work.

Wind turbines require a minimum wind flow to be efficient, and we just don't have that kind of wind in Georgia.

Wind studies being conducted by a consortium of Georgia EMCs show that small-scale projects may be feasible but will have minimal impact on meeting summer peak demand. That means wind turbines won't be able to significantly contribute to supplying the booming growth.

Solar energy is a good idea, but its practical applications are limited. That's because it would take 9,800 acres of solar panels to equal the output of just one typical coal-fired plant.

Some small projects make sense, but the electricity from a solar array the size to power some of the needs of an average home costs five to ten times the cost of what you buy off the grid.

Even then, it would take years to get significant amounts of wind and solar projects online. Unfortunately, Georgia can't wait.

But we shouldn't dismiss wind and solar power altogether. They fit nicely into a diverse, integrated strategy, like Walton EMC's new solar water heater progra. Check our Web site, www.waltonemc.com, for details.

That strategy needs to include all the resources we've been so richly blessed with. For example, the United States is the Saudi Arabia of coal. There is a 250-year supply right under our feet.

And France generates over 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear energy, giving it some of the lowest electricity prices and CO2 emissions. Our country - the country that developed the technology the French use - can do the same.

Wind, hydro, landfill gas, coal, solar, biomass, nuclear, natural gas - all of these are ingredients in a successful energy recipe.

Ronnie Lee is the CEO of Walton Electric Membership Corporation.