Solar PV

Utility-scale Solar development faces new challenges in NC

Economical, structural, and of course ideological:

That means that Duke is now paying Strata only wholesale electricity rates – without the subsidy – for power generated by six Strata solar farms that went online this year. “There is zero rate impact for rate payers,” O’Hara said. “And Duke is locking in a price for 15 years.”

As global solar prices went into a free fall and panel efficiency improved, solar farms became cost-competitive with coal-burning power plants and combined-cycle natural gas plants, two of the cheapest sources for generating electricity. The cost inversion, from priciest to cheapest, hasn’t won over all critics of renewables, but it has shifted their focus to new concerns: that solar panels may be toxic, and that solar farms conflict with agriculture.

That's typical of the anti-renewable, climate-change-denying crowd: When your main argument fizzles, you have to scramble to create a new (misleading) approach. But in their zest to find such, they also reveal their hypocrisy. Environmentalists have been pushing for decades for public officials to recognize the added costs associated with fossil fuel use, from ecological to human health issues, but that has fallen on deaf ears. And now that their "It's too costly!" argument no longer works, they want to create dangers from clean power production? Oh, hell no. As to the economics: Those of us who understood the true goals of Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards knew (or hoped) that prices would fall, and with that decline would come a decline in the demand from investors, who would see their profit margins shrink. This wasn't merely part of the plan, it was the plan. And it's working better than we'd imagined. That being said, it appears Duke Energy is doing what all monopolies do, leverage their competition out of the market:

The war on residential Solar goes national

Big utilities are afraid of distributed generation:

“Across the country state legislatures and/or utility regulatory commissions in more than 30 states are evaluating current net metering policies and are taking steps to update them to eliminate the shift in costs from customers with private solar systems to customers without these systems,” said Jeff Ostermayer, a spokesman at Edison Electric Institute (an association representing investor-owned electric companies in the United States) by email.

But the Brookings review suggests that these types of policy changes may not be warranted after all — that, rather, the benefits provided by rooftop solar actually outweigh their costs. The review points to state-commissioned studies from Vermont, Mississippi, Minnesota, Maine and even Nevada that suggest net metering results in net benefits for all energy customers.

EEI is likely the largest and most prolific industry-funded group opposing rooftop Solar, but other groups have been springing up like weeds in the last few years. Which gives you an idea of the huge amount of money being spent by utilities to undermine this (much needed) trend in energy production and use. Their argument is almost completely without merit, because they only focus on Solar net-metered customers not "paying" for grid use and maintenance. But in reality, the surplus power generated from rooftop Solar is bought and used by another customer within a few blocks of the point of generation. As opposed to power generated 50 miles away, traveling a grid that loses up to 17% of that power along the way. Get it? The utility actually saved money (profits) from that transaction, because it's more efficient and reduces the long-distance demand:

Utilities Commission levies excessive fine against NC WARN

Doing the dirty work for Duke Energy:

The N.C. Utilities Commission fined the group $60,000 and ordered it to stop the sales immediately and turn the solar project over to the Faith Community Church.

“NC WARN’s electric sales to the public (the Church) is impermissible due to the fact that the Church is located within a service area that has been assigned exclusively to Duke,” the commission says in its order released late Friday afternoon. “NC WARN knowingly entered into a contract to sell electricity in a franchised area and sold electricity without prior permission from the commission subjecting itself to sanctions.”

Make no mistake, this "order" is designed to bring NC WARN down; to destroy this nonprofit that has served as a balancing and oversight agent to keep the NCUC's dealings with Duke Energy honest, or at least not outrageously dishonest. NC WARN has saved us a ton of money by getting rate increase requests by Duke Energy reduced, and it appears they may need your support now more than ever.

Solar farmer sets the record straight

This is how you save rural America:

After speaking with our neighbors and family, we chose to use 34 acres of our farmland for a solar farm, producing enough power for 800 homes. We kept more than 200 acres as traditional farmland.

Our solar farm does not produce any noise or pollution, and our property value has not decreased. So far, the additional income from our solar farm has been used for medical bills, but my health has improved. And solar helps us provide for our family and keep our land where it belongs – in our family.

Compared to fracking, which taints wells, poisons farm animals, and guts property values to the point you can't even give away your land just to escape the nightmare. You won't find a more stark example of how little Republicans actually care for those they are supposed to represent than this one.

In defense of NC's wildly successful Solar tax credits

It's foolish to even consider stalling this engine:

The Tar Heel state ranked fourth nationally for total solar electric capacity and ninth per capita, according to a new report by the Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center. State House lawmakers used the report Thursday as a launch pad to talk about the potential freeze to North Carolina’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and the hangup in the budget over extending renewable energy tax credits.

Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Greensboro Democrat, said clean energy is an “economic success story” for the state. “It’s not time to cut it off,” she said. Nearly 23,000 North Carolinians are employed in the clean energy industry, Harrison added. “These jobs, businesses, investments in new revenues are at stake right now as the House and the Senate debate budget provisions,” she said.

Ten years ago, we used to get excited about a couple of hundred kilowatts of Solar PV being added to the mix, but in 2015 North Carolina will bring online 76 megawatts of Solar power in the 2nd Quarter alone. It's no longer a boutique-level "novelty" for the well-to-do to show off to their friends, it's grown into a baseload-providing system powering hundreds of thousands of homes. It's not on the drawing board, folks. It's a reality. And the last thing we need to do is screw around with the formula.

NC GOP stacking the deck against Solar farms

Fracking cheerleader Womack all-of-a-sudden worried about water quality:

“It would impact the county because that land, you know, there are taxes being paid to the county now, and it would reduce some of those taxes, so it's not a good deal for the county,” Commission Chairman Charlie Parks said.

Commissioner Jim Womack said while he was also concerned about solar farms not paying as much in taxes, he did not want to stand in the way of renewable energy development as long as taxpayers aren't bearing the burden in the long run. “[The solar farms] end up with potentially large amounts of disruption of the soil with storm water runoff, which we could bear the cost of later,” he said.

Yes, if they're not landscaped properly, Solar farms could exacerbate stormwater runoff. But it's standard procedure to install berms and other features to avoid such problems. What isn't standard, however, is Womack's concern for water quality. Here's another Commissioner from a neighboring County:

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