5 years ago

Alabama Power’s latest solar-without-subsidies move could protect state’s military bases

solar power military base

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC), the agency tasked with regulating the state’s utilities, this week approved solar energy proposals by Alabama Power that could help protect Ft. Rucker and the Anniston Army Depot during the next round of military base closures.

Earlier this year, Alabama Power established a groundbreaking new renewable energy program, seeking to boost its power from renewables—including solar—to 500 megawatt hours over the next six years. 500 megawatts of solar power is enough renewable energy to serve about 100,000 homes during an hour of peak sun intensity on cloudless days. Alabama Power already has 1,600 megawatts of hydro resources across Alabama, and 404 megawatts of wind generation from projects in Kansas and Oklahoma.

“This proposal provides a common-sense path for expanding renewables in Alabama,” Nick Sellers, Alabama Power’s vice president of regulatory and corporate affairs, said at the time the proposal was rolled out. “The Public Service Commission has been clear that they do not want renewables to be subsidized by all of our customers. This filing achieves that policy directive while also allowing for solar and new renewable energy projects that are expected to provide economic benefit for all of our customers.”

The plan was mainly geared toward attracting large corporations to the state, many of which have instituted company-wide policies requiring a certain percentage of their power consumption to be fueled by renewable sources.

The PSC approved Alabama Power’s plan in September. This week, the Commission also approved the Power Company’s first two solar projects to be built under the plan — one each at Ft. Rucker and the Anniston Army Depot.

In 2007, Congress set a goal for the Department of Defense to fill at least 25 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.

The Anniston Army Depot, a state-of-the-art maintenance facility, employs 4,100 total soldiers and civilians. Ft. Rucker, the Army’s aviation training base, supports a daytime population of just under 14,000, including about 5,800 people in uniform, 7,600 civilian and contract employees and 3,300 military Family member residents. Both installations are boons for their respective region’s economy, attracting suppliers and other private sector businesses to the area.

Solar plants at the two Alabama bases will produce approximately 10 megawatts each, enough combined power to service over 4,000 homes. The cost of the two projects will be just south of $50 million, but the benefits could be significant in the next couple of years when the Department of Defense could consider another round of base closures.

Alabama fared well overall in the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, in spite of Ft. Rucker being slated for realignment. The base’s Aviation Technical Test Center moved to Redstone Arsenal in north Alabama and combined with the Redstone Technical Test Center to form Redstone Test Center, keeping the project in the state.

The BRAC Commission considers a wide range of variables when deciding which bases to close. Spokespersons for Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL2) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) both confirmed to Yellowhammer that Alabama Power’s renewable energy projects could be positive marks for the two Alabama bases if they are ever targeted for realignment.

The three Alabama Public Service Commissioners each questioned the Obama Administration’s energy policies, but voted to approve the projects to support the troops.

“I am concerned if we did not approve this measure that our vindictive, liberal president would probably try to punish Alabama and those members of the military who honorably serve in our great state at the Anniston Army Depot and at Fort Rucker by transferring them to other bases outside of the state,” said Commissioner Chip Beeker.

“I believe that the number one thing in this state we’ve got to look after are our veterans and jobs,” added Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh. “The slogan at this commission is jobs, jobs, jobs.”

“We want customers to understand that this project has broader benefits,” Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman told the Birmingham Business Journal. “We are working with the military to meet their goals, and they are important to the state, so it is important to us to help them. They have certain requirements they are trying to meet regarding renewable energy, and we have been having ongoing conversations with them and these are just the first projects out of the gate.”


18 mins ago

Documentary shows Alabama’s First Class Pre-K program as model of excellence for rest of nation

A documentary film being released digitally this week focuses heavily on the State of Alabama’s First Class Pre-K Program as an example of sterling quality that other states should emulate.

The film, titled “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America” lasts about one hour, and over half of the running time is devoted to extolling the virtues of Alabama’s Pre-K program.

The film was funded by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation and produced in partnership with FireStarter Interactive. It is designed to lay out the positive effects of investing in early childhood education.

“Alabama is one of the shining stars, not only in the southeast, but in the country,” says Joe Squires, Ph.D., of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) around the midpoint of the movie.

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Starting at Zero features footage of Governor Kay Ivey and extended testimonials from former Department of Early Childhood Education Secretary Jeana Ross, former Business Council of Alabama Chairman Jeff Coleman and Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield.

Many other Alabamians affiliated with the First Class Pre-K program are also featured, including students, parents, teachers, and employees of the Department of Early Childhood Education.

Multiple individuals featured spoke to how investing in early childhood education is not just the morally right thing to do, but is also the best thing to help the economy.

“Children who have the benefit of quality pre-k education are better prepared for a future education,” remarks Canfield in the movie, adding that good pre-k puts children on a path to be capable members of Alabama’s workforce which is currently on track for a shortage of qualified workers.

First Class Pre-K has long been one of the Yellowhammer State’s most lauded policy accomplishments.

(Starting at Zero/Screenshot/Contributed)

“Alabama is a model for what other states can emulate,” Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) says near the end of the documentary.

Bullock details in the picture how he invited then-Secretary Ross to Montana to inform the key policymakers in his state how Alabama had built such an enviable program.

“Our children are our future, and what we do as a state today will determine who we are as a state tomorrow,” says Ivey in the documentary.

More information on the movie, including how to view it, can be found on the film’s website.

Watch:

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

33 mins ago

Jack’s offering free coffee to teachers August 17–21 — ‘A small way we hope to say thank you’

Jack’s Family Restaurants is celebrating teachers as they kick off the 2020 school year by offering free coffee at all of its locations from August 17–21.

According to a release, all teachers can receive their free coffee from Jack’s, in the drive-thru or in the restaurant, Monday through Friday until 9:00 a.m. with a valid school ID.

No purchase is necessary to redeem the offer, and teachers can choose between a hot or iced regular-sized coffee, limit one per guest.

“Being a good neighbor and supporting the communities we serve is part of the Jack’s DNA,” stated Jack’s CEO Todd Bartmess.

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“Offering free coffee to our hardworking teachers as they kick off an unusual school year is a small way we hope to say ‘thank you’ for everything they do,” he added.

Founded in 1960 in Homewood, Alabama, Jack’s Family Restaurants started as Jack’s Hamburgers in a walk-up hamburger stand that served burgers, fries, sodas and shakes.

The chain over the past 60 years has grown to almost 200 locations in four states across the South.

This is merely the latest in a long line of examples of Jack’s continuing to support its local communities as the chain grows.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

54 mins ago

Michael Jordan speaks to Univ. of Alabama football team — ‘Winning has a price’

Basketball legend Michael Jordan on Tuesday spoke via video conference to the University of Alabama football team.

The program, led by head coach Nick Saban, routinely has some of the most successful, well-known athletes and leaders from across the nation address the team each summer in preparation for the fall season.

Previous examples reported by Yellowhammer News include the late Kobe Bryant, as well as speakers from the business and political sectors such as world-famous entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Alabama Athletics shared a one-minute video clip from Jordan’s virtual visit. Players seen in the video were socially distanced and wearing masks at the team facility.

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“This guy — I have the most respect for, of anybody, as a competitor. This guy is a great competitor,” Saban said introducing Jordan to the team.

The Crimson Tide coach also praised Jordan in recent months during the premier of the popular 10-part documentary “The Last Dance.”

Jordan spoke to the team on Tuesday about what it takes to be a champion.

“Winning has a price,” the six-time NBA champion said. “You have to put forth the effort every single day.”

“Coaching can only give you the motivation — they can give you plays and they can give you all that — but at the end of the day, you’ve got to have self-determination. You have to want to be the best,” Jordan advised.

He added, “If you’re all on the same page and everybody wants to win, that’s the whole process. If you guys are sitting there putting on that Alabama uniform, your attitude is about winning. Winning is a part of me. I will do anything to win. Your energy should be towards winning.”

Watch:

Alabama Football also shared this famous quote from Jordan in a tweet: “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

The program, led by its players with support from the staff and administration, are currently trying to save the 2020 fall college football season.

RELATED: Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Alabama’s small business community needs Congress’ support

Affordable health care has long been a cause of concern for small business across our country with the cost of coverage has consistently ranked at the top of small business owners’ concerns. And now, amid a global health crisis, health coverage is more important than ever. As someone with years of experience working in the healthcare industry and alongside businesses, I have seen firsthand how the small business community faces unique challenges when it comes to employer-sponsored benefits.

There is no doubt that each employer wants to give employees the best benefits possible. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it makes small businesses competitive, attracting a more skilled workforce and helping to keep employees healthy. However, the large majority of small business owners run on extremely small margins, and as health care costs continue to rise, it is even more difficult to provide employees with quality health care coverage.

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Alabama is known for our friendly small business community, inviting many small employers to plant their roots in the Yellowhammer State. This is why we’re proud to have over 380,000 small businesses that employ over 765,000 of our state’s residents. Small businesses are, and always have been, the backbone of our economy. Alabama laws historically promote competition and small business growth but despite this, we still need our federal lawmakers to support us, especially at a time when businesses are struggling.

Today, with the pandemic continuing to spread across our state, small business owners are struggling to stay in business, and they are bracing for the full financial impacts of COVID-19. It is a devastating situation to be in and our small business community cannot survive on its own.

Fortunately, we have very dedicated small business champions in Washington, D.C. who have been working tirelessly to ensure any federal COVID-19 relief includes small businesses.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Senator Doug Jones and Congresswoman Terri Sewell supported bipartisan legislation that in 2019 repealed an Obamacare tax known as the Health Insurance Tax (HIT). This erroneous tax increased the price of health insurance for small business owners. Now we need them to further continue that work and work to implement policies that will continue to lower the cost of health care for small business owners, their employees, and their families, especially at a time when having health care is so crucial. A healthy workforce that is ready, and able, to get back to work is vital to our state, and country’s economic recovery.

Small business owners want to continue to provide health care for their employees, but they need Congress’ help to do so. I ask that our elected officials continue to come together to support Alabama’s small business community, especially when it comes to lowering health care costs and making health care more affordable — both as we continue to overcome COVID-19 and long beyond.

Curtis Cannon is a Managing Partner at Axis Recovery and has over 15 years of experience working with health insurance companies, brokers and consulting firms.

2 hours ago

Doug Jones: Kamala Harris ‘exactly what we need’

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) on Wednesday sent out a fundraising email to his supporters celebrating that his “friend” U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has been selected as the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Harris joins former Vice President Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. Jones is a longtime ally of Biden and was one of the first major elected officials in the country to endorse his presidential bid this cycle. It was also announced on Tuesday shortly before Harris was named as the VP nominee that Jones will be a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention next week.

Reacting to Harris’ selection on Wednesday, Jones wrote, “First of all, I’m proud of my friend and colleague. Her tenacity and dedication are exactly what we need to take on so many of the challenges we face, from helping save lives and livelihoods during this pandemic to finally ending systemic racism.”

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Harris has previously announced support for Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, decriminalizing illegal immigration, gun confiscation and other policy proposals championed by the far-left. She even once compared ICE agents to the Ku Klux Klan.

“This election is going to come down to the contrast between unity and division, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know how to bring people together. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to what we saw in 2017. Everything we’re seeing shows that not only do we have to make sure everyone hears about our message of unity, but we also have to energize traditionally underrepresented communities like Black and Latinx voters,” Alabama’s junior senator added in his email. “We sure did that in 2017 – I know the power and energy of Black women and the difference their hard work made in my race.”

“Now, we can do it again, and we’ll make history by electing our first Black and South Asian woman Vice President. I’m so proud that person will be my friend and colleague,” he concluded, with the email ending with a link to a fundraising page for Jones’ campaign.

This is not the first time Jones has used Harris to solicit support for his campaign. She sent out a fundraising email for Jones last year.

The junior senator from California earlier this year also traveled to Birmingham in support of Jones’ reelection bid.

Harris during that appearance said that she and Jones “are always cuttin’ up and sending each other notes” in the Senate.

She added, “We were cuttin’ up in the impeachment hearings. Some of those words would not be spoken in church.”

Harris and Jones each voted twice to remove President Donald Trump from office at the conclusion of those impeachment hearings.

Her running mate on the Democratic ticket to unseat Trump has actively supported Jones’ campaign, as well. Biden campaigned in Alabama for Jones during the 2017 election.

Paige Lindgren, a spokesperson for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, on Wednesday noted, “Despite his claims of bipartisanship, Anti-Trump Democrat Doug Jones has hitched his wagon to a potential Biden-Harris administration.”

“By doing this in a state that overwhelming supports the President, Jones has given up on representing the conservative values that Alabamians hold true,” she concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn