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7 months ago

Chambers County solar energy project now serving Walmart

(Phil Free / Alabama NewsCenter)

After months of construction, one of the state’s largest solar energy facilities, built in partnership with Alabama Power, is up and running in Chambers County.

The 72-megawatt Alabama Solar A project sits on 1,400 rolling acres, just south of LaFayette. Seventy-two megawatts is an amount of energy equivalent to what is typically needed to power about 18,000 homes.

Most of the renewable energy attributes from Alabama Solar A are going to serve Walmart through a long-term contract, to help the retailer meet its renewable energy goals. Alabama Power is marketing the remaining energy and renewable energy attributes from the project to other customers interested in supporting new renewable generation in the state.

The project is operated by Boise, Idaho-based Clenera and was built by Swinerton Renewable Energy, based in San Diego. Alabama Power has a long-term power-purchase agreement with the primary owner of the facility, Houston-based Centaurus Renewable Energy, to receive all the energy and environmental attributes from the solar farm, which it can then use for its own customers or resell to others – as in the contract with Walmart.

The long-term agreements make the project cost-effective for Alabama Power customers, while also supporting Walmart, one of the state’s most important retailers and employers.

“This project is great for Alabama Power customers because it puts downward pressure on rates. It also helps our partner, Walmart, meet its sustainability goals. And it supports the local economy in Chambers County. It’s a win-win-win,” said John Kelley, Alabama Power’s director of Forecasting and Resource Planning.

Work began in February on the $140 million project, which began generating electricity a few days ago. More than 450 people were employed at the site during peak construction, many of them local workers. The facility’s permanent employees also are being hired locally.

The site, which stretches across gentle, rolling hills, uses more than 338,000 solar panels that automatically track the sun for optimum efficiency. About 57,000 pilings were installed in 4,000 rows to create the solar energy facility.

The project was built with sensitivity to the environment. Detention ponds capture rainwater, helping prevent erosion and protecting water quality. Tree stumps removed during construction were ground into mulch and used across the site to also prevent erosion, until grass planted throughout the facility had a chance to sprout and grow.

“It’s been a great partnership, all around,” said Vince Longo, project engineer for Swinerton, who hails from Sacramento, Calif. It was the first time Longo was involved in constructing a solar facility in the deep South. He said local officials were helpful throughout the build-out, and treated him and other out-of-towners warmly. “Southern hospitality is real,” he said.

“It really has been a good relationship, with all the partners,” said Kevin Winchell, field service manager for Clenera. “Everyone has worked well together, to get this project done.”

Alabama Solar A is the third solar project connected to Alabama Power to begin operating in 2017. Earlier this year, Alabama Power unveiled company-owned solar facilities on two of the state’s military bases, Anniston Army Depot and Fort Rucker. The company also has rights to the generation from two wind farms in the Midwest and markets the renewable energy attributes from all these projects to interested parties. Alabama Power also produces clean, renewable hydro power at 14 hydroelectric facilities on the Coosa, Tallapoosa and Black Warrior rivers.

“Alabama Power was founded on renewable energy, and we support new renewable energy projects where they make sense for our customers,” Kelley said. He said the company is looking for other opportunities to expand its use of renewable energy for the benefit of customers and the state.

Alabama Solar A – Fun Facts

— $140 million investment

— 1,400 acres

— More than 450 workers at peak construction

— 338,662 solar panels

— 89 miles of direct-current, underground conductors

— 26 miles of medium voltage underground conductor

— 9 miles of fiber cable

— 34 detention basins for protection of water quality

(By Michael Sznajderman, courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

37 mins ago

WATCH: University of Alabama Police Department completes lip sync battle featuring ‘Sweet Home Alabama’

Monday, The University of Alabama posted a video of their campus police department participating in a lip sync battle against Clemson University.

UAPD chose “Sweet Home Alabama” as their song and, afterward, challenged all other SEC schools to join in on the competition.

Watch the full video here.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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44 mins ago

Rep. Byrne: Illegal immigrants will not be housed in Baldwin County

Tuesday, Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-01) announced that illegal immigrants would not be housed at Navy airfields in Baldwin County.

Congressman Byrne opposed the housing of 10,000 illegal immigrants at Naval Outlying Field Silverhill and Naval Outlying Field Wolf in south Baldwin County.

Byrne, along with other members of the Alabama and Florida Congressional delegation, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security Nielson expressing their concerns with the proposal.

Byrne released both a statement and a tweet on Tuesday regarding the decision of the proposal.

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“Housing illegal immigrants at ill-equipped airfields along the Gulf Coast was always a terrible idea, so I appreciate the confirmation that this plan is no longer being considered. We had a team effort to push back this flawed idea, and I especially want to thank Baldwin County Commissioners Chris Elliott and Tucker Dorsey and Baldwin County Sheriff Hoss Mack for their advocacy on this issue,” said Byrne in a news release.

He added, “While I am glad this issue is resolved, we must continue working to secure the border and eliminate the need for additional housing for illegal immigrants altogether. I remain 100% committed to working with President Trump to build a border wall, hire additional border patrol officers, and ensure our border security is as strong as possible.”

Click here to read the full letter ICE Deputy Director Ronald Vitiello sent to Rep. Byrne regarding the decision.

@RealKyleMorris is a Yellowhammer News contributor and also contributes weekly to The Daily Caller

1 hour ago

Liberal heckler hurls object, expletives at Doug Jones — Jones says ‘there’s just as many people passionate on the other side’

After a liberal heckler hurled an object and expletives at Sen. Doug Jones at a town hall Monday, Alabama’s junior senator compared the incident, which ended with police officers hauling the agitator out, to peaceful conservative efforts to persuade Jones to vote to confirm President Trump’s nominee Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

AL.com’s Howard Koplowitz reported that Jones indicated at the town hall that “conservatives in the state are trying to apply the same pressure on him as the woman at the Birmingham event,” referring to the protester.

Jones said, “There’s just as many people passionate on the other side, so that doesn’t make it real easy.”

While the pressure on Jones from the left has stooped to this kind of antic, conservative efforts have all been peaceful and respectful to this point. They are backed by the fact that a majority of Alabamians polled support Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation.

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The Judicial Crisis Network’s massive ad buy has been flooding Alabama’s airwaves since July 9, and the NRA started their own ambitious television campaign last week.

Concerned Women for America, a Christian women’s organization, is also focusing grassroots efforts on the state.

Sen. Richard Shelby voiced his strong support for Kavanaugh’s confirmation after meeting with him recently, but Jones remains undecided.

“Senator Doug Jones’ inability to make a decision on casting an Alabama vote for Judge Kavanaugh is disconcerting,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan told Yellowhammer News.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

Arab High School to dump ‘Dixie’ tradition at football games

A rural Alabama high school is ending its tradition of playing “Dixie” at football games.

John Mullins, superintendent of city schools in Arab, said he made the decision to quit playing the song at Arab (AY-rab) High School, but not because of any “external pressure.”

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Leaders in the educational system and the school board have talked for months about dropping the song, he said, and local news outlets reported in June that the longtime band director was retiring.

“While I fully understand the difficulty of changing a tradition, the song has negative connotations that contradict our school district’s core values of unity, integrity, and relationships,” Mullins said in a statement reported by WHNT-TV.

School bands throughout the South used to play “Dixie,” but the practice ended as the region got further away from legalized racial segregation.

The Arab High School Band has played “Dixie” after touchdowns for decades.

Students and staff at the school will vote on a new fight song after this football season.

In the meantime, the band will play an instrumental soul song that’s popular among marching bands, “The Horse.”

Census statistics show the town of about 8,200 people, located in northeastern Alabama, is more than 96 percent white.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Rep. Byrne: ‘Great value’ found in traveling around district, speaking with local leaders

Each August, the House of Representatives typically enters a period of recess known as the August District Work Period. This is time set aside for Members of Congress to travel across their home districts visiting with the people they represent.

For me, this is incredibly valuable time that I can spend listening to my constituents and gaining a better understanding of the issues impacting our area. Here is just a quick highlight of my August District Work Period so far.

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As you probably already know, I love to hold town hall meetings throughout the First District to hear directly from the people I represent. This August, I am holding a “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour with twelve stops in all six counties that make up the First District. So far, we have held town hall meetings in Salipta, Atmore, Brewton, Dauphin Island, Millry, Citronelle and Mobile. Later this month, we will make stops in Grand Bay, Monroeville, Seminole, Loxley and Spanish Fort. You can get all the details about the town halls online at Byrne.House.Gov/BetterOffTour.

Visiting local businesses and talking with employees is another priority for me in August. For example, I have already visited Olin in McIntosh, the Louisiana Pacific facility in Clarke County, Serda Brewing in Mobile, and Metal Shark Boats and Master Marine in Bayou La Batre, just to name a few. The visits help me learn firsthand how federal issues are directly impacting employers and employees in Southwest Alabama.

A really special opportunity was being able to ride along with UPS to help deliver packages on the Eastern Shore. I dressed up in the full UPS uniform, rode in the truck, and personally delivered packages. It really helped to step in the driver’s shoes and see the difficult work they do every day. I am especially grateful to Chris Dorgan for showing me the ropes.

Just last week, I hosted Chris Oliver, NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries, down on Dauphin Island for a Red Snapper research trip. As one of the leading federal officials responsible for our fisheries, I welcomed the opportunity to show off the health of the Red Snapper stock in the Gulf, as well as the very impressive research being done locally by the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

Also last week, I traveled to the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi to meet with the director and get an update on services for our veterans. As you may know, the Biloxi VA oversees most of our local VA facilities. It was a productive visit as I work to hold the VA accountable and ensure our veterans receive the care they deserve.

We had the annual Women’s Forum in downtown Mobile, which is organized by the Community Foundation of South Alabama. We had another outstanding crowd as local women had the opportunity to network and hear from speakers and panelists about issues important to them.

I find great value in holding roundtable discussions to hear directly from leaders about specific issues. With this in mind, we held separate roundtables with local school superintendents, economic developers from our area, and community leaders from Chatom. Each of these roundtables were very informative, and we have more scheduled later this month.

As you can probably tell, this August District Work Period has already been a huge success. The good news is that we are just getting started. I look forward to spending more time around Southwest Alabama throughout August to help me be the best Congressman possible.

U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is a Republican from Fairhope.