Alabama Power could add 250x solar to state grid

Alabama Power could add 250x solar to state grid

When a state isn't making a move to increase renewables, is it up to the utility to step in? Alabama may soon become an example of what happens when a utility implements a large amount of solar well before a state regulates renewables.

Even though Alabama is among the bottom 10 states in the nation when it comes to installed solar capacity, Alabama Power is doing what they can to add solar to the state. They have proposed up to 500 megawatts (MW) of renewable generation, including solar, in the state.

There is currently only 2 MW of solar installed in Alabama. But according to the Solar Energy Information Association (SEIA), the state's solar resource is actually greater than states like New Jersey, Massachusetts and New York -- all of which rank in the top 10 nationally in installed solar capacity.

Alabama Power filed their petition with the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) in June to install the 500 MW over six years, with each project being up to 80 MW each.

"This proposal provides a commonsense path for expanding renewables in Alabama," said Nick Sellers, Alabama Power vice president of regulatory and corporate affairs, in a statement. "The Public Service Commission has been clear that they do not want renewables to be subsidized by all of our customers. This filing achieves that policy directive while also allowing for solar and new renewable energy projects that are expected to provide economic benefit for all of our customers."

Alabama Power would either build their own projects, or purchase power from other sources. The company explained that 500 megawatts is between four and five percent of the company's total capacity.

"This program was driven by conversations with customers looking to meet renewable mandates pushed down from their headquarters," said Tony Smoke, Alabama Power vice president of marketing, in a statement. "Our field representatives have worked hard to identify customers who could be impacted and if this is approved, we will go directly to work with them to explore options."

Alabama Power currently has 1,600 MW of hydro resources across the state, and 404 MW of wind generation from projects in Kansas and Oklahoma. But even with this, customers have been asking for solar, leading to the utility's exploration of the generation source.

"The renewable generation program would provide broad options for us to work with customers willing to pay for renewable costs, while allowing us to protect other customers from bearing additional costs," Smoke said. "As a service provider, our focus is to make sure we are providing customers access to choices they want. Through this plan, we are creating new customer options to sustain and grow industry in our state."

The renewable generation sources that Alabama Power currently uses is a part of who they are, and they believe solar can add a lot to that.

Source: Fierce Energy

Smart Grid Bulletin May 2019

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