– October 4, 2023 –

Good morning! Today we’re looking at two opportunities available to Coastal Georgians — one for sunny days and one for rainy ones. First up, an initiative that began in Savannah is making affordable solar leases available throughout the state. Then, as both development and subsequent flooding problems grow, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper is spearheading an effort to crowdsource information about which areas are underwater after a rain.

Solar without a big investment

A new program developed by Savannah’s Office of Sustainability allows low and moderate income Georgia homeowners to benefit from rooftop solar panels without spending tens of thousands of dollars upfront, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports.

Called Georgia BRIGHT, it’s offering solar panel leases through the Capital Good Fund, a certified nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution. The nonprofit uses federal funding, grants, and bulk purchase discounts to reduce the cost of installing solar on homeowners’ roofs, allowing it to offer affordable leases.

Homeowners pay nothing upfront. Once the solar is up and running, participants pay a monthly lease fee based on the size of the home, the current electric bill and other factors. Program organizers expect the average lease to cost $47 a month but to save about $67 a month on the electric bill, netting the homeowner about $20 a month.

To qualify, Georgia residents must own their home, have a roof in good condition, and have a gross annual household income of $100,000 or less. No minimum credit score is required. To learn more, visit bit.ly/GABRIGHT or call (866) 584-3651. Homeowners with higher annual incomes can also benefit from discounted purchases through the program, though they won’t qualify for a lease.

rooftop solar panels
Solar panel covers the roof of this home near Savannah High School. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Report flooding with new tool

Save this one for a rainy day: the Ogeechee Riverkeeper has developed a survey tool for citizens to report flooding in Coastal Georgia counties. The nonprofit, along with project partners One Hundred Miles and the Savannah Riverkeeper are especially interested in flooding connected to increased development.

Using the Report a Flood app, citizen scientists can record basic information, such as time, place and depth of the flooded area. Make sure you snap a picture; the app requires an uploaded photo to complete the form. Those reporting can remain anonymous if they choose. Citizens can report issues at public, private, residential, or commercial property. The crowdsourced reports will help monitor localized flooding after rain events. The goal is to document flood events to aid in public comments and improve developmental planning, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper wrote in a press release.

View the survey here: https://arcg.is/1WXC9O1

Tidal flooding on Riverside Drive in Glynn County in 2021. Credit: Josh Bain/Glynn County Emergency Management Agency

Plastic recycling in Statesboro

A plastic recycling company, revalyu, plans to break ground on its new operation in Statesboro today. Already operating in India, revalyu takes discarded plastic bottles made of a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, and makes PET pellets. Their customers use these pellets to produce items including yarns, bottles, packaging, textiles, and furnishings. The company claims its low temperature chemical recycling process reduces water use by 86% and energy use by 75% compared to conventional PET manufacturing using crude oil.

The planned $50 million plant on a 43-acre site will be the first PET bottle recycling plant in the U.S., Plastics Today reported earlier this year.

Plastic use and waste has skyrocketed globally in recent decades but recycling has not followed suit, with U.S. plastic recycling rates around 5-6% in 2021, Greenpeace reported last year. In that same report, Greenpeace is pessimistic about the future of plastic recycling, too. “Mechanical and chemical recycling of plastic waste has largely failed and will always fail because plastic waste is: (1) extremely difficult to collect, (2) virtually impossible to sort for recycling, (3) environmentally harmful to reprocess, (4) often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and (5) not economical to recycle.”

plastic garbage
Credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

Also noted

• Environmental advocates in Georgia are accusing Georgia Power of using the state’s groundwater as a “permanent coal ash dumping ground,” as Dave Williams of Capitol Beat reports. The utility plans to spend $9 billion to close all 29 of its coal ash ponds, but 10 of them will be closed in place, leaving concerns about contaminants including mercury, cadmium and arsenic leaching into drinking water sources. The long-running issue came up again after the EPA moved to reject coal ash disposal plans in Alabama as not properly protective of people and waterways.

• Camden County is safeguarding a rare and showy plant, the Chapman’s fringed orchid, that’s been found on roadsides there. Camden put up signs to identify roadside management areas for the bright orange flowers, the Georgia DNR reports. The county is also excluding these areas from spraying and mowing to allow the orchid to flower and produce seeds.

Chapman's fringed orchid
Chapman’s fringed orchid Credit: Ethan Hatchett/DNR

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

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Mary Landers is a reporter for The Current in Coastal Georgia with more than two decades of experience focusing on the environment. Contact her at mary.landers@thecurrentga.org She covered climate and...