Energy Procurement, Utilities, Regulation, Solar, Wind  -  July 31, 2017

NC bill banning new wind permits signed into law

A North Carolina bill revamping the state’s solar energy policies to create a competitive marketplace was signed into law July 27 despite the inclusion of a provision that places a temporary ban on new wind farm permits.

The law includes the allowance of third-party leases for rooftop solar arrays; support for the creation of a competitive solar market through open bidding; and allowing large energy customers to dictate how much renewable energy they receive from their utilities.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed HB 589 into law despite the 18-month moratorium on wind farm development that state legislators added into the bill in late June. While the primary purpose of the bill is an overhaul of the state’s solar market, Gov. Cooper released a statement in opposition to the wind farm moratorium within the bill.

On the same day he signed HB 589 into law, the governor also signed an executive order requiring the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality to continue recruiting wind projects and completing permit and pre-application reviews to expedite the creation of new wind facilities immediately following the end of the moratorium.

“A strong renewable energy industry is good for our environment and our economy,” Gov. Cooper said in a statement. “This bill is critical for the future of significant increases in our already booming solar industry. I strongly oppose the ugly, last-minute, politically motivated wind moratorium. However, this fragile and hard fought solar deal will be lost if I veto this legislation and that veto is sustained.”

Proponents of renewable energy support the legislation for the growth it will create for the state’s solar industry, but worry the wind farm moratorium in the law will set the state back.

“The programs created by this legislation, namely the competitive solicitation process for new utility scale solar and the addition of a rooftop solar leasing program, will help North Carolina retain its position as a top market for solar in the United States,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the last-minute inclusion of an 18-month wind moratorium was both unnecessary and disappointing and we hope the governor’s executive order can help mitigate that portion of the bill.”

The primary solar element of the new law includes the creation of the “Green Source Rider” program, which allows customers to request how much renewable energy they want to receive from their utilities. Lawmakers also hope the new law will lower solar prices by making installations more accessible and by creating a solar leasing program.

Duke Energy Corp., whose subsidiary Duke Energy Carolinas LLC is the largest electric utility in the state, issued a statement in support of the bill.

“The solar aspects of this legislation will benefit residential, commercial and industrial customers alike – saving them money and allowing for more ways to secure renewable energy,” Randy Wheeless, a spokesman for Duke Energy, said in a July 27 statement.

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