[Reprinted from Energy Alabama Energy Spotlight, August, 2019. Author Daniel Tait is on Alabama Interfaith Power & Light's Steering Committee]
For those who say solar power does not work in Alabama, Energy Alabama Chief Operating Officer Daniel Tait will tell you emphatically, "Yes it does." His presentation "Going Solar in North Alabama" to the July meeting of the Energy Huntsville Initiative effectively put to rest the notion that solar energy does not offer a viable energy alternative in the Tennessee Valley,
To begin with, the Tennessee Valley gets about 5 KWH per square meter of solar energy per day, Tait showed, about average for the south and much better than the upper Midwest, Northeast or Pacific Northwest areas. "This alone is one reason it works here," he said.
He continued by showing that, when combined with the major efficiency improvements solar panels have seen in the past 50 years and their steady drop in price, you have a situation where solar energy is very competitive to conventional electric generation.
Alabama and a few other states have missed out on the national trend to solar PV that really took off in 2010 and has seen annual installations top 13,000 MW annually. His presentation showed that in 2016 solar accounted for nearly 374,000 of the 1.9 million U.S. energy jobs.
His presentation focused on several federal and state incentive programs offered to encourage adoption of solar electric systems.
Locally, TVA's Green Power Providers (GPP) program offers a 20 year contract buy back program, whether from a residential, commercial or industrial solar array. In place for nearly a decade, the program expires the end of December 2019.
For several years the Federal government has offered a 30% tax rebate on solar systems, which also ends Dec. 31. However, smaller tax credits of 26% through 2020 and 22% through 2021 will still be offered.
The Alabama SAVES program provides state-backed loans of up to $4 million for qualified energy savings programs, at an interest rate 2% below those offered by banks. Aimed primarily at industrial and commercial projects, these programs can be either energy production or energy savings projects, and the loans are supplemental to bank financing.