Tue., January 31, 2012 3:00pm (EST)

Solar Firm Challenges State Laws
By Orlando Montoya
Updated: 2 years ago

SAVANNAH, Ga.  —  
A Savannah-based solar electric firm plans to test state electricity laws. (photo by David Hawgood)
A Savannah-based solar electric firm plans to test state electricity laws. (photo by David Hawgood)
The owners of a Savannah solar electric firm are challenging Georgia Power to sue them.

Company officials want state courts to test monopoly utility laws preventing Georgians from generating their own electricity.

The company is calling itself Lower Rates for Customers.

Last week, they put a solar panel at a restaurant, allowing the eatery to generate some of its own electricity.

The panel cuts the restaurant's Georgia Power bill by about 10 percent.

But it also skirts the state's electricity monopoly.

Savannah doctor Sidney Smith co-founded Lower Rates.

"Our abilities to live freely, generate our own power and do what we need to do on our own personal property is really a personal freedom and right," Smith says.

He says, the state's Electric Territorial Act violates personal freedom.

"I guess the question is: who owns the sun?" says Smith. "If you're a private property owner you can go get a sun burner or sun tan or grow fruits or vegetables or grow trees and cut them to warm your house. If another individual comes in and cuts those trees, is it no different than me setting a solar system up and selling you the electricity?"

Smith says, he'd like to work with Georgia Power but is prepared for a legal fight.

A Georgia Power spokeswoman says, the company isn't aware of Smith's plan but welcomes a discussion with him.

Smith is planning to install similar panels in Bryan and Chattooga Counties.