Originally published on the ECOreport.
As of September 24th, North Carolina passed 1 GW of solar capacity, and is the fourth state to reach 1 GW, following California, Arizona and New Jersey.
Earlier in June, the SEIA announced that North Carolina reached 1 GW of solar capacity, but the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) uses a more conservative definition for when projects are online. “NCSEA’s market intelligence team tracks what projects are in the queue and which are being installed every hour of every day. We feel confident that this is the most accurate timing to make this announcement that we have officially crossed the threshold,” said Allison Eckley, NCSEA’s communications manager.
The REPS and REITC
North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), and the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (REITC) have enabled the rapid growth of the utility scale sector, which makes up around 99% of the state’s installations.
Utilities are presently required to obtain 6% of their electricity from renewable sources and energy efficiency. This will increase every two years until it reaches 12.5% in 2021.
“Policies such as REPS and REITC have really given our utility scale companies a chance to thrive,” said Eckley.
Many of the incentives and policies, like third party sales that fueled California’s residential development, are not available in North Carolina. Nor is there much room for net metering in a market dominated by Duke Energy.
Homeowners who can afford to purchase systems can take advantage of a 35% state tax credit and a federal tax credit, but this is not sufficient to spur widespread residential adoption.
Support for Solar In Rural Areas
“A lot of our support for (utility scale) solar comes from rural areas. Projects are being installed on land that previously wasn’t taking in any revenues. Now landowners are making a significant amount of money from solar projects and these projects provide many construction jobs,” said Eckley.
“Additionally, in a lot of cases there have been continued opportunities to farm the land, even when there is solar installed on it. So we’re seeing sustainable farming companies teaming up with solar developers on the same sites. You’ll see sheep and crops popping up right next to solar panels. It’s nice visually and a nice mix of both worlds for these rural communities. They don’t have to compromise on land use, they only benefit from these projects coming to their towns.”
A recent Conservatives for Clean Energy poll found that 78% of North Carolinans support the current policy of providing tax incentives to homeowners and businesses to utilize renewable energy, including options such as solar, wind and other renewable resources. Seventy-five percent of Republican and Democratic voters also favor the idea of allowing third party sales to enable mass adoption of solar.
NC General Assembly
Despite solar’s growth, the NC General Assembly recently determined to include a sunset of the REITC provision in next year’s budget.
“This policy shift is not the first time our clean energy economy has faced challenges,” said Eckley. “However, we know this is a resilient industry. North Carolina clean energy firms have overcome multiple policy threats in an uncertain business climate to achieve tremendous growth in jobs and revenues since 2008.”
North Carolina’s solar industry provides over 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs, with 450 clean energy firms reporting solar-related activity.
NCSEA will discuss the effect this will have on solar and other clean energy sectors at the Making Energy Work: Power Forward conference to be held October 6-7 in Raleigh, N.C.
Photo Credits: All Images Courtesy North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association: Biltmore solar panels with sheep; Ray Family Farms
Reprinted with permission.
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