Solar In Alabama’s Future

The current population of Alabama is estimated to be 4.90 million people. In February 2019, state utilities used natural gas (35.6%), nuclear energy (31.3%), coal (20.3%) and renewable energy (12.8%) to generate electricity. Hydropower and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in Alabama.

Alabama’s reliance on nuclear energy and coal contributes to above average electricity costs. In February 2019, the average cost of electricity in Alabama was U.S. 12.72 ¢ per kWh, which is the 16th most expensive price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Alabama was one of only twenty states that doesn’t have a renewable energy standard or target. Alabama is one of twenty-four states with loan programs for renewable energy technologies. The continued escalation in the price of coal is causing Alabama utilities to move accelerate the move to renewable energy, like solar and biomass.

Alabama Municipal Electric Authority (AMEA) has announced plans for the develop a solar park, located near the state capital of Montgomery. The 130 MW solar park will be financed, built and operated by Lightsource Renewable Energy (LRE). AMEA, headquartered in Montgomery is a publicly owned, nonprofit utility that provides power to eleven cities in central Alabama. LRE, headquartered in London, England is a multinational developer of utility scale solar parks.

LRE will build and deliver electricity to AMEA under a twenty-year power purchase agreement. The solar park is estimated to cost $125 million. The project will contain over 350,000 solar panels on the 800-acre site. The solar park is forecast to be completed and generating power in 2021.

States in the southeastern region of the United States have significant undeveloped solar potential, but very limited wind and hydropower potential. The cost of coal a fuel to generate electricity is more than double the cost of solar power. Utilities in the southeastern region of America are now looking to solar to replace expensive, inefficient coal-fueled power plants.

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