Renewable energy, particularly solar power, is booming in the United States. A large part of that growth is taking place in the southern reaches of the country, since those states tend to get a huge amount of sun. The major exception to the trend is Alabama, which has one of the smallest solar industries in the country. There are a few different factors that contribute to the state’s solar deficiency, but most of them revolve around the government’s lack of support for the industry and utility companies that are practically hostile to it.
Solar panels do not produce energy at a consistent rate. Instead, they produce a large amount of energy when the sun is out, and no energy when it is not. Other popular forms of renewable energy behave similarly. Some energy producers solve that problem by storing their excess energy for use when their generators are inactive, but most choose to sell their excess back to the grid. High payments for that electricity strongly encourage people to install renewable energy capacity in their homes.
The payment rate is controlled by the power companies in Alabama. While some residents do benefit from a reasonably high rate, most get paid very little. The low rate of return strongly discourages people from generating electricity on their own, since most of them cannot expect to get a return on investing in expensive solar panels or turbines.
There are a few other policies that hurt green energy in the state. Alabama Power, which provides electricity to the state’s largest markets, charges a monthly fee to individuals who install solar panels on their roof. That means that people who have a bad month for generating electricity could actually lose money by installing solar panels on their property.
The state government has also failed to do institute any policies to encourage the state to adopt renewable energy. In addition to allowing utility companies to set punitive rates that discourage solar power, the government has tried to block net metering in the state. State law also fails to support third-party panel ownership and community investments in renewable energy, which can help people to overcome the initial cost of installation.
The Bright Side
Fortunately, Alabama has managed to install some renewable energy generators. The Tennessee Valley Authority, which controls electricity in the northern end of Alabama, does support green energy. While it hasn’t been able to overcome all of the hurdles that renewable energy faces in Alabama, it has created a large solar farm. Unfortunately, most of the state’s major population centers are outside of the Authority’s jurisdiction, so the organization’s ability to convert Alabama to green energy is highly limited. It is helping to push the state in the right direction, but the only hope for the state’s renewable energy industry is increased support in the rest of the state.
The state government’s failure to support the renewable energy industry inevitably leads to a declining economy. Alabama has the right type of environment to support solar energy, which can lead to a huge number of jobs. However, the lack of support means that the state is ranked 49th in the nation for jobs in the solar industry. It isn’t quite at the bottom, but it is likely to end up there very quickly unless something changes in the government.
The state’s hostility to renewable energy is also a bad sign for its real estate market. Solar panels and wind turbines are extremely popular with home buyers who want to help the environment and cut down on their ongoing costs. Many of the buyers who look for those features are young, educated, and fairly wealthy, so attracting them can do great things for an areas economy. As long as Alabama blocks home solar power, they will go elsewhere until the state’s energy policies stop hurting its economy.