Solar Energy in Alabama

Solar Energy in Alabama

First Published on LinkedIn on by Eagle Solar & Light President, Joe Bennett:

Not too long ago, I entered the PV field with close to 30 years of operations experience and lots to learn.  During the first two weeks into my new field, I made a startling and crucial observation about what I see as the truest potential of solar energy:

Solar has a wide range of appeal across a diverse set of stakeholders.

The people that I met while talking about solar came from differing backgrounds, with differing attitudes and experiences about solar and its technology. Different in their motivations to implement solar and each had their own way of describing how solar would benefit them or their business. In all the differences – whether it was an individual that wanted to reduce their carbon footprint with renewable energy, or the business owner that wanted to off-set their annual costs of energy – solar just works.

Regardless of one’s ideology surrounding renewable energy, the fact is that we have one of the most abundant energy resource in the form of free, available sunlight. For us Alabamians, it is one of the most poorly-leveraged energy resources across the state. Many economic and political reasons exist why Alabama ranks among the bottom 10% in the nation for installed solar, but I sense our biggest challenge in Alabama for solar is overcoming the lack of information about Solar and its benefits.

Here are just a few of the more common misconceptions I hear from potential customers:

#1. “Residential solar systems are illegal or not allowed by the power company.”
 As long-time solar professionals in Alabama, we hear a form of this sentiment regularly. Often enough, the person making this statement is arriving at this conclusion because they don’t see solar systems on their neighbors’ roof tops in the numbers they see when venturing out-of-state, so there must be some authority preventing it from happening. While not an unreasonable observation, the reality is that residential solar systems are not illegal, and they are available across Alabama. We also hear this type of statement from individuals that started their solar quest by first consulting the “power company”. Again, not an unreasonable place to start, but energy providers in our state don’t have (whether financial, strategic or political) a focus on solar energy as an alternative resource for energy to their customer base. Alabama companies like Eagle Solar and Light want to be your complete go-to resource for anyone that is considering solar for their home or business.

#2. “Solar system components don’t last very long, and are expensive.”
Harvesting solar energy to produce electricity is a big business outside of Alabama, and even more so outside of the United States. Per the Solar Energy Industries Association, and the U.S. Department of Energy, at the end of 2014, there was 27 gigawatts of installed solar in the United States as compared to 251 gigawatts outside the U.S. In the ever-expanding Solar marketplace manufacturers and component engineers are producing some of the industry’s most efficient and long-lasting products each year. The costs of soar components consistently trend downward year to year as well. As an example, ten years ago, the average cost per installed watt was close to $6.00, where today, it is headed towards nearly $3.00 for the same grid interactive system. Solar panels offer up to 25 years of warranty. Other critical Solar components (inverters, charge controllers, etc.) provide 15-year warranty periods, and sometimes even longer. With the new generation of Solar technology in the market today, Solar components are designed to last beyond the payback point.

#3. “Alabama does not have the right climate features for solar.”
While Alabama ranks in the bottom 10% for installed solar, we rank 3rd in the nation for solar irradiation. This is a big deal as Alabama’s position on the globe, 30 to 35 degrees above the equator and being a few degrees east of true south combine to make where we live one of the most solar-desirable places in North America. We also hear, in our Great State, we have way too much humidity and way too many trees for solar to be efficient. Granted, increased temperatures can have a legitimate de-rating factor for power producing circuits. A well-trained solar professional can design a system to take the extremes of ambient climate conditions into account so that the impact is managed effectively and has minimal impact to the overall performance and reliability of the system. Clearly direct sunlight delivers optimal PV performance versus periods of shade. Experienced solar professionals have several tools available to them to study the effects of shading on a system, by time of day, and by time of year (as the sun’s path across the sky changes with the seasons). Today’s solar technologies, found in both the panel and with its main components, provide power point tracking and/or optimization to help mitigate the effects of reasonable shading, along with an accurate system design.

These types of common misconceptions are just a sampling of what we encounter in the community when discussing solar as a viable renewable energy source for Alabama consumers. The more informed we are about our energy choices the better consumers of energy we will be. Clean, quiet, abundant and responsible solar energy is another Alabama resource that we can (and should) put to good use. Solar works, Alabama!

You can quickly start your search for more solar information by visiting our website at www.eaglesolarandlight.com. And when you feel ready to speak to someone about what solar can mean for your home or business, we’d be honored to talk with you and share the many examples of how solar can reduce your energy bill and improve your impact on our environment to keep Alabama thriving. You can reach us at (205) 202-2208.

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