98% Of Electricity Can Be Generated By Solar Panels At Alabama Steel Plant

This is a big story, though there doesn’t seem too much coverage about it yet. Apel Steel Corporation in Cullman, Alabama had a 340 kW PV solar system using over 1,000 solar panels designed and installed to generate up to 98% of its electricity.


It has been reported that Apel Steel could save $3,000,000 over the life of the solar panel system. Solar power is often criticized for being too expensive, but in this case we see an example of a very large potential return-on-investment, rather than a loss of money.

“This was a uniquely challenging installation. Not only did we have to engineer and deliver a fully self-contained and optimized power plant, but wire management and overall installation logistics were complex.  On top of this, we had to install the system on uneven, undulating terrain,” explained Chuck Boggs, CEO of ACE LLC SOLAR, the developer and installer.

1,088 Suntech PV solar panels were inserted into 45 Solar FlexRack Series G1Lracking mounts for the new power plant. A utility scale energy harvesting, monitoring and distribution optimizer helps the company maintain a local grid. Called an enerG•Station, it allows for the use of renewable energy and storage of surplus in nearby batteries to be used when needed.

The goal was to make Apel Steel energy independent, as in an off-grid business. Off-grid is a term often associated with clean energy early adopters that own homes they power with solar and wind technology. Sometimes these people are dismissed as being crackpots or ‘granolas’, but a large steel corporation would be considered very mainstream societally. Alabama is also a conservative state, where solar power has not exactly flourished. Apel Steel’s successful investment goes against the local cultural grain, but it also simply makes business sense.

Alabamapower.com has stated that Alabama’s southeastern region similar has sunshine abundance to parts of Florida, so in a physical sense solar power can function well enough there. However, Alabama may be lacking in state incentives to encourage more solar growth.

The fact that a company dependent upon heavy machinery utilizing much energy could dare to go solar, is a testament to the viability of renewable energy for some business applications. The solar installation also took place on unlevel ground with heavy clay and a rocky landscape. That challenge was also taken on and overcome.

Companies like Apel Steel should be commended for taking the lead on clean energy development. Solar panels have steadily declined in price over the last couple of years, so they have become more attractive both for consumers and business owners. Another potential benefit of taking a leading position on operating a business using clean energy is that it can generate free positive press.

Apel was founded in 1941 and today makes a very wide range of steel products.

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About the Author

has been writing about solar energy for years on sites like CleanTechnica, Care2, and Planetsave. He enjoys the outdoors and is passionate about protecting life on this planet. You can connect with Jake on Google Plus.
  • preConfederation

    Please contact Apel Steel Corporation and let them know their website isn’t working, or there website is overloaded.

    Recent article:
    “98% Of Electricity Can Be Generated By Solar Panels At Alabama Steel
    Plant”, maybe the cause of high volumes of traffic to their website.

    I’m hoping to see additional details on the their products, so please let them know the situation.

  • Offgridman

    This change could be of a benefit to the workers also. A private foundry that I knew of always had to run a third shift in the middle of the night to get the cheapest electricity prices when melting the metal for casting. Perhaps this plant does enough production to run three shifts anyways, but with solar as the primary energy source it will allow the forges to run during the day now.

    • jeffhre

      I imagine it’s statistically a lot safer to run hot metal casting when people naturally want to be awake and alert.

      • Offgridman

        You are right of course that it would be safer for the employees to run the furnaces and do the casting during the daytime when they are more naturally awake and alert.
        But for the companies it comes down to the dollar cost of the electricity to do so, and at the foundry I discussed they said that the per Kwh cost was almost half as expensive as doing it during the daytime. So when talking about the thousands or tens of thousands of Kwh per night to run the blast furnaces it can result in quite a savings
        While the one that I am familiar with is located in upstate NY, have heard that the practice is similar at the giant plants in Pittsburgh PA. So if we could get all of them to follow the example of the operation cited in the article, it will result in cheaper operating costs for the company, and safer conditions for the worker’s.

  • Vensonata

    This really is important. Often pv is considered green window dressing. Now this project is serious high energy industry. Grime and grit, fired by PV. that silences a lot of B.S. dismissal.

  • multumescmult

    would somebody help me? i am looking for any information if rooftoop solar is doable in an integrated steel plant.. since there are coke plant, blast furnaces and other plants producing lots of dust in an integrated steel plant.. thanks in advance for any kind response..

    • Offgridman

      I don’t know if just rooftop solar could provide the amount of electricity that these plants require, however nearby ground mounted panels will be just as effective.
      It may be necessary to use cleaning robots for the panels to compensate for the nearby dirt and dust producing operations, but these have been proven to be economically feasible in desert solar farms that require frequent cleaning.
      Also to be considered is that solar produced electricity would help quite a bit in reducing the pollution from traditional coke or coal fired furnaces. So the environmental conditions around the plant will be greatly improved by the use of electric furnaces.

      • multumescmult

        thank you.. i will search for desert solar farms..

        • Offgridman

          My pleasure that my comment is helpful to you.
          If you are able to find a solar system that will work for your situation please let me know.
          I and many others on this site will very much enjoy hearing of another industrial plant getting their electricity from a solar source

          • multumescmult

            It is a long way to go for us but I will do so..