Because of the fee, 65-year-old Thorne says it’ll take almost two decades to pay back her panels.
“Yes,” she says and laughs, “I may not be alive.”
Green energy groups say this solar fee is a key reason why, according to Wood Mackenzie and the Solar Energy Industries Association, Alabama comes in 48th out of 50 states in residential solar capacity. (North Dakota and South Dakota trail Alabama).
The Coosa Riverkeeper, a watchdog organization that monitors water quality along the Coosa’s 220-mile path through Alabama, spoke out after the utility last week was fined $250,000 for pollutants found in groundwater near the Gadsden Ash Pond on the banks of the river.
“We firmly believe that leaving the ash to sit in an unlined pit and pollute the nearby groundwater for decades to come is irresponsible,” said Justinn Overton, the Riverkeeper’s executive director.
Coal ash is a by-product created when coal is burned for electricity. Plant Gadsden stopped burning coal in March 2015 and finished closing the pond in 2018, implementing monitoring wells it committed to checking for pollutants.
Alabama Power currently imposes a $5 per kilowatt monthly “capacity reserve charge” on solar and other types of distributed generation. This charge affects not only rooftop solar and residential customers, but also small businesses and schools who rely in part on solar installations to offset the energy they consume and buy from Alabama Power.
This particular fixed charge for rooftop solar not only unfairly burdens Alabama Power customers who install rooftop solar, but also reduces up to 50 percent of the savings customers could enjoy by going solar. Similar, prohibitive fixed charges for rooftop solar have been proposed, approved or rejected across the U.S. To add insult to injury, the Alabama Public Service Commission’s (PSC) approved the Alabama Power fixed charge in January 2013 without any public input or justification.
Up close, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the United States isn’t as big as you’d expect it to be. From most angles, you can’t even see it until you’re right on top of it.
But hit the right gap in the rolling hills of north-central Alabama, and the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant looms large even from miles away. Nestled on about 800 acres on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, the plant is one of Alabama Power’s coal-burning workhorses, putting out enough electricity to power about a million homes. It virtually never stops running – and never stops producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.