Shock: NC lawmakers actually cooperate to boost solar

Apple solar farm logo
Promo image Sunpower/Apple

From "outlawing sea level rise" to trying to stop a wind farm after it was already built, we've given North Carolina lawmakers a pretty hard time over the years.

But a strange thing appears to be happening in the Tarheel State right now, as reported by the News and Observer: State legislators are actually working together on a bill that could significantly boost the solar industry. The bill—which includes a raft of measures including allowing solar leasing—has the backing of House Speaker Tim Moore (R) and Senate leader Phil Berger (R), as well as Governor Roy Cooper (D). Perhaps even more remarkable than this sudden rash of bipartisanship, is the fact that the bill also has the backing of both Duke Energy and a wide range of environmental and renewable energy groups. Here's more on how it came about from the N&O article:

"[The] bill is the result of more than 30 meetings held since September involving the N.C. Utilities Commission, Public Staff, Duke Energy, Environmental Defense Fund, N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, ElectriCities, N.C. Pork Council, independent solar developers, municipal power agencies, rural electric cooperatives and others."

In terms of overall impact, the bill does appear to be pretty wide ranging. It covers everything from permitting solar leases (as long as the lease is not directly tied to how much energy is generated) to allowing, for the first time, participation in "community solar" schemes. And while it reduces the amount that Duke Energy is expected to pay for power to solar farms, it also requires Duke to accept bids from solar farms and offer longer contracts—a move which many solar developers apparently see as a worthy tradeoff.

It's really quite an encouraging sign, and perhaps not as surprising as it may first seem. North Carolina has actually seen huge growth in the utility-scale solar sector of late, spurred in part by the presence of giant tech companies like Apple (the photo above is of their solar farm in Charlotte). Residential solar, however, has lagged somewhat behind, so an overhaul of the state's legislation may well unlock some pent up demand.

Who knows, maybe such bipartisan cooperation bodes well for offshore wind here too...

Tags: Renewable Energy | Solar Power

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