NC proves Southeastern powerhouse for solar

 

SNL Energy published a graph Wednesday that illustrates North Carolina’s opportunity in the solar industry — and what could be at stake if the N.C. General Assembly weakens the state’s commitment to it.

That wasn’t the point of the graph and story SNL published. As you can see here, the report is about 29.3 gigawatts of new power-generation capacity completed in the nation last year. The headline for SNL is that 14 gigawatts of that is in wind capacity — and that is big news.

Twenty-one of the 30 utility-scale solar projects in the Southeast last year were in North Carolina.

But if you look at the map, you will see that 30 utility-scale solar projects were built in the Southeast last year, and 21 of them were in North Carolina. That is more individual projects than in any other state (I count 18 in California). Of course, many of the N.C. projects were small, and the Southeast’s contribution of 130 megawatts of solar capacity is dwarfed by the 1,189 megawatts built in the West (they build big out there, particularly in Arizona).

But in the Southeast, North Carolina stands out way ahead of its neighbors. Florida, the Sunshine State, had three projects. So did Tennessee and Georgia, and that completes the region’s total.

A key factor, undoubtedly, is that North Carolina offers a state tax credit of 35 percent for renewable projects and mandates that utilities get at least some of the power they sell from renewable resources.

 

Incentive arguments

Both incentives are being questioned in the General Assembly, and action on both could occur before the new legislative session ends. There are reasonable arguments to be made about whether and how to subsidize renewable energy in general and solar power in particular. But projects on the drawing board make it likely that solar construction in the state next year will easily beat the latest annual total.

Companies from Pennsylvania, Florida, California and even Germany and Italy have begun developing projects here.

The state has gotten the attention of solar manufacturers that are interested in making their products close to their customers.

As the SNL report shows, it could be an industry in the making.

 

Written by John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal