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The town of Woodland North Carolina recently became World famous as a place that opposes solar energy [1]. Well it turned out that they were not so much opposed as not wanting a fourth solar farm, since they already had three [2]. From many of the headlines [3, 4] one may get the impression that solar is not doing well on North Carolina. Nothing could be further from the truth, with the state having over 150 utility-scale solar facilities and another 377 planned [5]. Much of this growth is a result of the States strong Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS) [6], which was passed by an overwhelming majority, in 2007, by the states General Assembly. The REPS requires investor-owned utilities to get 12.5% of 2020 electricity from Renewable energy or energy efficiency savings, while Municipal utilities and electric cooperatives must get 10% of 2018 electricity from those sources. However, since the General Assembly changed from Democrat to Republican control, in 2010, the REPS have been under fire, culminating in the passage of a bill [7, 8] that would freeze the REPS at 6% of electricity from Renewable energy or energy efficiency savings. The current General Assembly has also allowing the States 35% solar tax credit to expire [9], giving a heavy blow to small solar installers.

North Carolina is dominated by one utility, Duke Energy, which also happens to be the largest utility in the United States. A recent fight has pitted this Goliath against a David, NC Warn [10], which is attempting to become a Third-Party-Owned (TPO) solar vendor to Faith Community Church in Greensboro NC [11]. North Carolina is one of the few states that does not allow TPO Solar, which indicates the power Duke Energy has in the State (no pun intended). Recently the General Assembly attempted to pass a bill [12] that would permit some form of TPO Solar, but have not been able to pass the bill [13]. Now Duke Energy is twisting the arms of regulators to impose a $1,000 fine on NC WARN for every day its solar panels are connected to the grid [14, 15, 16]. For a public advocacy group, such as NC WARN, this is a risk well worth taking because TPO Solar is at the heart of distributed energy revolution that is occurring. It offers the possibility of small start-ups being able to get into the Power Industry, and in turn dramatically increasing the competition and innovation.

This summer Iberdrola Renewables, a Spanish company, began work on the States first wind farm [17]. It is located in Perquimans County, which is in northeastern North Carolina, and eventually it will have 104 turbines. However, first they have to overcome a lawsuit [18] which is trying to have the project put through a regulatory review by N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. The State has great wind energy resources, especially off of its coast [19], which have already gone through a lengthy Federal review [20]. There has been whispers of wind projects off the coast, but the cost of such projects are still prohibitively more expensive than onshore projects [21]. The current project, in Perquimans County, shows the potential of onshore wind along the coast, but there is a catch. The coastal areas of the state have numerous, very large, wintering areas for waterfowl along the Atlantic flyway. A wind project on the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, in eastern North Carolina has already run afoul of this problem [22]. As a whole the opposition to wind turbines, due to their potential for killing birds, are over blown, relative to other potential sources of bird fatalities [23]. However, this region of North Carolina is not just any ordinary place for birds, with the potential deaths of tens of thousands of birds if you get it wrong, so it is worth while to investigate before building. The state should facilitate this process by performing studies which identify areas that are safe to build wind farms.

North Carolina has great potential for renewable energy, and a past legislation record that has resulted in the fastest growing renewable energy sector in the Southeast. However, the current administration is reversing the legislation record and the repercussions are still unknown. A recent documentary [24] by WRAL, in Raleigh, discussed this shift, describing in detail how the renewable energy industry has grown in the State, creating jobs, and how the current government is changing the formula that created this growth. The industry has grown enough so it is not going away, but it may not grow as fast, and most importantly a lot of the smaller companies will find the going much tougher. As a consequence the State may loose the lead it has in renewable energy in the Southeast.




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