Georgia Power set to test battery storage technology for producing electricity

Georgia Power plans to build a battery storage facility in Talbot County.

ATLANTA – Georgia Power is getting closer to launching its first foray into a revolutionary new source of energy generation.

The state Public Service Commission (PSC) next week will consider a proposed demonstration project to evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of generating power through battery storage.

Georgia Power plans to build a battery storage system near an existing substation in west-central Georgia’s Talbot County that will generate 65 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt produces enough energy to power 650 average homes.

The Mossy Branch Battery Facility is the largest of three battery storage projects the Atlanta-based utility is planning with 80 megawatts of power the PSC authorized two years ago. Battery storage is the most forward-looking component of the latest 20-year energy production plan Georgia Power filed with the commission in 2019.

“We believe the Mossy Branch project will provide a significant opportunity to evaluate in real-time in a real-world environment the commercial and operational performance of a standalone grid-charging storage asset,” Brandon Marzo, a lawyer representing Georgia Power, told the commission’s Energy Committee Thursday. “That really is the benefit of doing this project.”

Battery storage is the latest in an otherwise familiar array of sources Georgia Power uses to generate energy. The technology promises to play a role in helping the utility reduce its reliance on coal as it increases its use of natural gas, nuclear and renewable power.

Georgia Power has not revealed how much the demonstration project will cost. That information was redacted from a filing the utility submitted to the PSC in July.

If the commission signs off on the project next week, the battery storage facility is expected to go into commercial operation in two years.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Kemp again warns against mandates, says COVID is declining in Georgia

ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp doubled down Thursday on his opposition to any federal mandates requiring Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“This would be a massive federal government overreach,” Kemp said during a news conference updating the status of the virus in Georgia.   

The governor touted new state Department of Public Health figures that, he said, show more than 53% of Georgians are fully vaccinated. He also said more than 64% of Georgians have received at least one shot. 

“It’s not just about vaccines anymore,” Kemp said, arguing any Washington, D.C.-mandates would hurt “hardworking Georgians who work for small business, and those small business owners.  

>> Kemp, Biden spar over possible COVID vaccine mandates

“Mandates would impose unnecessary, outrageous fines,” Kemp said, adding that he is working with Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and others to file lawsuits should the White House require vaccines. 

As of Thursday, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, there have been more than 1.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia, along with 22,354 deaths and 80,648 hospitalizations since the pandemic began.  

Kemp and state Commissioner of Public Health Dr. Kathleen Toomey said hospitalizations in Georgia have dropped by one-third over the last seven days. 

Dr. Kathleen Toomey updated Georgians on COVID, along with Gov. Brian Kemp.

Toomey also urged Georgians to get a highly recommended booster shot which, she said, can be administered with an annual flu shot. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation. 

Georgia losing state troopers, public safety personnel

ATLANTA – Thanks to the COVID pandemic, civil unrest and violent crime wave, Georgia’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) has suffered a 60% reduction in the number of state trooper applications over the last 18 months.  

During a state Senate study committee meeting Thursday, DPS chief of staff Josh Lamb told senators the 745 troopers on the state agency’s current payroll and 223 motor-carrier officers are the lowest in his 24 years of service.

“In 2020, the department lost 87 troopers either due to retirement, resignation or termination,” Lamb said. “And now, retention has become as big an issue as recruitment. We’re having a tough time getting them into the front door and an equally tough time keeping them from leaving through the back door.” 

The committee was meeting to hear from different state departments on their current number of employees and the overall health of the state’s retirement program. 

Lamb was asked by state Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, how the department’s pay scale compares to other jurisdictions. 

“We’ve raised the starting trooper’s salary from $36,832 to $47,350, and that’s still not enough,” Lamb said. “Sandy Springs just revamped their pay scale to a starting salary of $52,641, and for the Atlanta Police Department, for prior-sworn officers, that pay scale begins at $54,440.” 

Lamb also said his department has shortened its trooper school for prior-sworn officers from 34 weeks to 13 weeks. 

Nonetheless, DPS has seen an overall turnover rate of 22% over the last two to three years. The troopers lost in 2020 alone represented a $7.8 million DPS investment, Lamb said.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation. 

Biden makes two historic judicial nominations

ATLANTA – President Joe Biden has released two historic federal judgeship nominations in Georgia.

Biden nominated Victoria Marie Calvert and Sarah Elisabeth Geraghty late Wednesday for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Calvert would become the second Black female judge to serve that court, while Geraghty would be the first former federal defender to become a district court judge in Georgia.  

Calvert has been a staff attorney in the Federal Defender Program in Atlanta since 2012. From 2006 to 2012, she was an associate at King & Spalding in Atlanta, where she represented clients in the special matters and government investigations group, and engaged in substantial pro bono work.

Calvert received her law degree from New York University Law School in 2006 and her bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 2003. 

Geraghty is senior counsel at the Atlanta-based Southern Center for Human Rights. She has held a number of leadership positions, including managing attorney of the center’s impact litigation unit from 2015 to 2020.  

Geraghty was previously a staff attorney with the Office of the Appellate Defender from 2002 to 2003 in New York. She served as a law clerk for Judge James B. Zagel on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois from 2000 to 2002.  

She received her law degree from the University of Michigan Law School in 1999, a master’s degree from the University of Michigan School of Social Work in 1998, and a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in 1996. 

Georgia Democratic U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Raphael Warnock both took credit for the nominations.  

“I expect and am confident both of these historic nominees will impartially uphold and apply the law, without fear or favor, guided by their commitments to truth, integrity, and justice,” Ossoff said. “I look forward to meeting with them again ahead of the confirmation process and seeing them before the Senate Judiciary Committee.”  

 “These historic appointments would bring a rich diversity of professional experiences to the federal bench,” Warnock added. “I look forward to supporting them through the confirmation process.” 

Earlier this year, Ossoff and Warnock formed a federal nominations advisory commission to review applicants for open federal judgeships, U.S. attorney and U.S. marshall positions in Georgia. The commission is composed of a diverse group of attorneys, judges, civil rights leaders and criminal justice reform advocates.  

The 2021 Commission was led by Leah Ward Sears, a former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and the first African American female state Supreme Court chief justice in the country. 

 This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

House GOP leader McCarthy headlining Georgia Republican dinner

ATLANTA – U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is headlining the Georgia GOP’s 2021 Chairman’s Dinner next month. 

Georgia Republican Party Chairman David Shafer made the announcement Wednesday.  

“McCarthy has worked tirelessly to elect Republicans across the country and to block the Pelosi agenda in Washington,” said Shafer, referring to Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

McCarthy has represented California’s 23rd Congressional District since 2007, and he has served as the Republican leader of the House since 2019. 

Shafer was one of several GOP officials and candidates who appeared at last weekend’s Perry rally headlined by former President Donald Trump. 

McCarthy has been a relentless supporter of Trump, who reiterated claims of election fraud at his Saturday rally.

Currently, according to Ballotpedia, there are 220 Democrats in Congress and 212 Republicans, with three vacancies. McCarthy is leading the GOP congressional effort to retake the House next fall and replace Pelosi. 

Pelosi and McCarthy have a deeply partisan, adversarial relationship, which includes virulent political spats over everything from Trump’s historic two impeachment trials, the Jan. 6 commission, and, most recently, President Joe Biden and Democratic efforts to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. 

The event will take place Oct. 28 in Atlanta. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.