Alabama Solar Knowledge (ASK) Project:

The ASK project is mapping data collected from solar businesses in and near Alabama to highlight organizations doing solar business here – or wanting to. Partners in the project are Gulf States Renewable Energy Industry Association, Alabama Solar Association, Alabama Environmental Council and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Government. It is envisioned that the mapping format can be used in later phases to display energy consumption and electricity generation data and possibly link to energy efficiency resources. AEC will guide the data collection portion of the solar map project with the assistance of UAB students and UAB will manage the mapping component. Currently there is no central repository of information on Alabama’s solar installations or installers.

We're asking businesses to tell us about their firms as well as information about each Alabama solar installation they've worked on through this survey. Citizens who aren't in the solar industry are also invited to add information and thoughts by filling out the comments section on the Installations survey. And if you're aware of solar installations, you can also fill out an entry there for each solar installation you know about. An Opinion survey is also interested in your views on solar energy and can be found at www.bit.ly/ALclnnrg. More information about the ASK Project can be found at the website: www.ASKalabama.info

Solar Energy in Alabama

As the reality of climate change becomes more urgent, many countries, businesses and individuals are turning to more efficient, greener ways to produce energy to power their lives.  Solar energy is attractive to a world dealing with climate change because solar energy does not emit carbon and the sun is an infinite resource for energy generation.  Even outside of environmental reasons, solar energy is attractive because it can provide autonomy.  With enough capacity installed, a residential, commercial or industrial energy consumer could generate electricity independent of the utility company’s grid.

Solar energy is important because it is clean, renewable and empowers energy consumers to generate his or her own electricity.  Specifically in the U.S., many policies, programs and incentives are implemented to further integrate solar energy production into the U.S. energy portfolio.  Solar energy is also important because everyone on earth has access to the sun.  Solar panels have the potential to bring electricity to nations and societies who currently do not have it.  Solar energy production is not only an answer to the climate crisis, but it also offers new opportunities and potential for developing and under developed nations

The solar landscape in Alabama

Alabama is ranked 8th in the nation (tied with Mississippi) by Arizona State University for states that would benefit from solar deployment through generating and exporting energy to other states and for the purposes of self-sufficiency.1 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) who serves the northern third of Alabama, offers the Green Power Providers program that offered 10 megawatts of capacity through residential and non-residential interconnection applications.  TVA will buy the green energy output at the retail electricity rate plus a premium rate for a full 10 years of the 20-year agreement. For the remainder of the agreement term, TVA will purchase the green energy output at retail rate only.”2 Once the system is generating, qualifying participants will receive an additional $1,000 to help offset start-up costs.  Alabama Power, which serves the southern two thirds of Alabama, offers no incentive program.  However, Alabama Power customers may currently take advantage of the 30% credit under the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit.

Alabama currently has no net metering legislation.  Forty-four states currently have some kind of net metering legislation.  Net metering allows electricity customers who wish to supply their own electricity from on-site generation to pay only for the net energy they obtain from the utility.  Alabama is also one of thirteen states in the U.S. that has no Renewable Portfolio Standards or goals.  A Renewable Portfolio Standard is a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal.  Without legislation and policies promoting solar energy, although Alabama has great solar insolation and capacity, Alabama’s solar energy industry is lagging behind comparable states.

Empirical data

The Solar Foundation put out their 2013 Solar Jobs Census earlier this year.  This report showed that Georgia, Alabama’s sister state, as of 2013 had created 2,600 solar jobs.3  Georgia ranks 16th in the nation for jobs created in the solar energy industry.  Alabama ranks 42nd with only 420 jobs created in the solar energy industry as of 2013.4

To support ASU’s finding that Alabama is ranked 8th in the nation (tied with Mississippi) for states that would benefit from solar deployment through generating and exporting energy to other states and for the purposes of self-sufficiency, one need only look to empirical data about Alabama’s solar insolation.  Montgomery, AL has an average solar insolation of 4.23 hours a day.5 The measurement of insolation shows irradiance, which determines the amount of solar power that could be produced.  The highest irradiance is in July, at 5.70 and the lowest is in January, at 2.32.  California, a state known for its thriving solar energy industry and abundance of sun, has its highest irradiance in June at 6.70 and the lowest irradiance in December at 2.99.6

 
 

[1] https://asunews.asu.edu/20101122_business_solarrankings

[2] http://www.tva.com/greenpowerswitch/providers/

[3] http://thesolarfoundation.org/solarstates#ga

[4] http://thesolarfoundation.org/solarstates#al

[5] http://www.wholesalesolar.com/Information-SolarFolder/SunHoursUSMap.html

[6] These figures represent South facing solar arrays.  http://solarelectricityhandbook.com/solar-irradiance.html

 
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