In 2022, Alabama’s economy was ranked 27th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP). The state’s economy is dependent on aviation, aerospace, biotechnology, agriculture, automotive, chemical, food production, and forestry industries.
Alabama is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard nor a renewable energy goal.
Power Generation Capabilities
In June 2023, utilities used natural gas (46.9%), nuclear energy (30.8%), coal (16.0%) and renewable energy (6.2%) to generate electricity in Alabama. Hydropower, biomass, and solar are the primary types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Alabama.
In June 2023, the average cost of residential electricity in Alabama was 14.63¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 16.11¢ per kWh.
Recent renewable energy developments in Alabama include:
- 227 MW Solar Project – In September 2021, Danish power company, Ørsted commissioned the Muscle Shoals solar project at a site approximately 175 miles northwest of the state capital, Montgomery.
- 130 MW Solar Project – In July 2022, British energy company, Lightsource bp commissioned the Black Bear solar project at a site approximately 5 miles north of Montgomery.
- 80 MW Solar Project – State electric utility, Alabama Power is continuing work on the Letohatchee Solar project at a site approximately 20 miles southwest of Montgomery. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2024.
- 79 MW Solar Project – In January 2018, Alabama Power commissioned the AL Solar A project at a site approximately 70 miles northeast of Montgomery.
- 30 MW Solar Project – People’s Republic of China company TAI Energy Infrastructure Solutions is continuing work on a solar project at a site approximately 175 north of Montgomery. The project is forecast to be commissioned in 2024.
Coal mining began in Alabama in the 1830s. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, forges, and furnaces.
In 2022, Alabama had 6 underground and 16 surface operating coal mines, which produced approximately 10.4 million tons of bituminous and subbituminous coal. Alabama’s coal is primarily used to fuel regional power plants and to produce steel.
In 2010, 45.6 % of Alabama’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. In June 2023, 16.0% of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease?
- Pollution – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America.
- Economics – The cost to generate power from coal is more than double the cost to generate power from renewables, like solar.
- Climate Change – Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.
Alabama has significant undeveloped renewable energy resources, including solar, biomass, and hydropower. The cheapest form of power ($/kWh) without any subsidies is onshore wind, solar, hydropower, and then natural gas.
Alabama’s state utilities have been slow to move from fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) to renewables. However, economics have prompted state utilities to install over 1,350 MW of solar projects over the next five years. Alabama has cooled on coal and is now warming to solar!
Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”
Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy issues.