This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.Guest Blog | April 22, 2015
This post is the eighth in a blog series discussing state-by-state highlights of wind energy throughout the South in the lead up to the WINDPOWER Expo in Orlando, FL, May 18 – 21. See the rest of the series here.
New wind turbine technology is a game changer for clean energy opportunities in Alabama. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in generating more electricity and reducing costs. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved and are now more suitable for the Southeast. One modern wind turbine can now power the equivalent of about 600 homes a year!
New wind speed maps released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) demonstrate the greatly increased potential for wind turbine development in Alabama with advanced turbines. As wind turbines increase in height and are able to access better wind speeds, more areas become attractive for wind energy development within Alabama. The shading on the map to the right represents new available land for wind development with modern turbines with towers of 360 feet (110 meters) achieving a 35% capacity factor or greater. With these new wind turbines, 16,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in Alabama. Developing just 1,000 MW of wind power in Alabama (just one-sixteenth of Alabama’s potential) could provide enough power for 255,000 homes a year!
Based on the Jobs and Economic Development Index model, developed by NREL, developing one gigawatt worth of wind energy capacity in Alabama could support approximately 130 ongoing operation jobs with a total annual payroll of $6.6 million.
Although Alabama has yet to develop a wind farm, the state is already benefitting from the wind industry. In 2012, Alabama Power announced the purchase of 404 megawatts (MW) of wind energy from Oklahoma—enough to power the equivalent of 115,000 homes a year.
According to the American Wind Energy Association, Alabama is home to at least 9 wind energy-related manufacturing facilities serving the domestic and international wind industry markets. In 2013, there were between 101 and 500 direct and indirect jobs provided by the wind industry in Alabama. Developing land-based wind in the state could greatly add to local economic benefits and create more wind energy-related jobs. A few of the wind energy-related manufacturing facilities in Alabama include:
- Hydratech Industries Wind Power (Robertsdale, AL): Hydratech Industries has over 70 employees in Alabama, designing and manufacturing hydraulic and cooling solutions for wind turbines at their facility pictured to the right.
- MFG Wind (Opp, AL): MFG Wind’s Opp facility specializes in wind turbine repair and maintenance services. MFG Wind also manufactures wind turbine blades, nacelles, spinners, replacement parts, and more.
- Elk River (Cullman, AL): Elk River designs and manufactures wind turbine safety equipment. You can view the various products they design including harnesses here.
The Southeastern Wind Coalition has published wind energy fact sheets on this state and others from around the Southeast. You can access those fact sheets here.
As the Southeast becomes a new frontier for wind energy, it is only fitting that the largest wind energy conference of the year will be in Orlando, Florida. Join us, May 18-21, 2015 for the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition in Orlando. Each year, the event draws thousands of attendees and hundreds of exhibitors all looking to advance the wind industry. WINDPOWER features over 30 sessions ranging from market and policy analysis, to project performance and technical advancements in wind energy. It’s an excellent way to connect with subject matter experts–anyone interested in the wind industry should plan on attending. As a benefit to you for reading our blog, you can use this discount code to receive $50 off the full registration: SPKWP50.
We hope you can join us in Orlando to learn more about wind energy opportunities for Alabama and the entire Southeast! You can register here.