Alabama Power's hydroelectric producing plants include a number of lakes on the Tallapoosa, Coosa, and Black Warrior rivers, as well as coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, and cogeneration units located across the state. In addition, it is one of only two U.S. electric companies to generate 100 percent of its electricity from non-hydro sources (the other being Ameren in Missouri).
The company was founded in 1882 by Thomas Edison after he learned that the city of Birmingham had built its own electric plant just four years earlier. At first, Alabama Power only served residents within its service area, but it soon began offering electricity to businesses too. Today, the company provides service to 1.4 million people in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Electricity is generated at power plants using various fuels such as coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium fuel pellets. Nuclear energy produces about one-third of the nation's electricity but cannot be used if there is danger of a radioactive spill into the environment. Hydroelectric power is derived from dams which create ponds or reservoirs when water is released down the river to produce electricity. Wind power is generated by rotating blades attached to towers which spin magnets inside generators that transform wind movement into electricity. Solar power is derived from the sun's heat after capturing it with solar panels that convert sunlight into electricity.
Alabama's electricity is generated mostly from coal, natural gas, nuclear power, hydroelectricity, and biomass. Natural gas has surpassed coal as Alabama's principal source of power over the last decade (2006–2016). Oil accounts for only a small portion of Alabama's total energy supply.
Nuclear power provides about 15% of the state's electricity. The three operating reactors in Alabama combined generate nearly a third of the nation's radioactive-waste disposal capacity. Construction began in 1973 on what was then called the Atomic Energy Commission site at Plant Brookshire in Chickasaw County. The reactor units were completed in 1977, 1980, and 1982, respectively.
Hydroelectricity is produced at four sites across the state. The largest single facility is Hoover Dam on the Colorado River near Las Vegas. The other three sites are Webb Lake in Etowah County, Rainbow Reef in Madison County, and Blue Mountain Lake in Morgan County.
Biomass is the name given to the solid waste products from agriculture and forestry. Biomass can be used as fuel for generating electricity. In fact, most renewable energy sources produce more energy than they consume. For example, solar and wind power are not limited by mass or distance, so they provide an always-available source of energy. The only constraint is the weather, which can cause problems for solar power plants.
Alabama has abundant energy resources, including large coal deposits as well as crude oil, natural gas, and coalbed methane reserves. 1,2,3 Southern Alabama is a coastal plain with a humid climate, located near the Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the west by the Black Belt- a region of flat, fertile land- and on the east by the Appalachian Mountains. The state's capital city is Montgomery.
In 2015, Alabama produced and sold more than $1 billion in energy products. Oil production has declined since its peak in 2010 but remains high compared to other Southeastern states. In addition, Alabama is one of the top five producers of natural gas in the United States. Coal continues to be used for nearly one-third of its electricity needs and remains by far its largest energy source after natural gas. However, increased environmental regulation may cause this number to decline over time.
The majority of Alabama's population lives in just three counties: Jefferson, Madison, and Mobile. These areas are rich in resources and support several large industries including petroleum refineries, chemical plants, and aluminum smelters.
Energy consumption in Alabama is higher than most other states due to its reliance on automobiles for transportation and its many large industries.