What Supportive Govt Policies Can Do: North Carolina Becomes Hotbed for Renewables

SustainableBusiness.com News

Think about 23 acres of solar panels stretching to the horizon. Now think about them all on one roof, topping Shoe Show's distribution center in North Carolina.

That's a big roof and its North Carolina's largest rooftop solar system and among the largest in the US. They produce 5 megawatts (MW) of solar a year, enough to supply over 600 homes.

The $22 million project paid for 18,500 PV panels for the nation's leading independent shoe retailer.

Rather than using the power for Shoe Snow's electricity, it will be sold to Duke Energy or the city of Concord through a power purchase agreement, giving the company an additional revenue stream. 

Federal tax credits which allow owners to deduct 30% of the project cost combined with a 35% tax credit from the state of North Carolina, reduced the payment period from 20 years to 5-6 years. Combined with much lower prices for solar panels, the project made business sense. 

Toys "R" Us is building the largest rooftop PV system in the country at 5.38 MW on its New Jersey distribution center. It's also greening 44 stores.

North Carolina Becoming Solar Hotbed

These tax breaks combined with the state's Renewable Energy Standard, which requires the state to get 12.5% of its electricity from renewables by 2021, are combining to make solar an important growth industry.

North Carolina has plenty of open land, sun, wind and major transmission lines tied to the PJM Interconnection, the largest  competitive wholesale electricity market in the world.

"Alternative energy is one of our main economic niches now,"   Vann Rogerson, president of North Carolina's Northeast Commission, which recruits industry there, told The Virginian-Pilot

Utilities are ahead of schedule, especially in solar, Julie Robinson of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association said.

A 20 MW Perquimans solar plant will power nearly 3000 homes, almost half the homes in the county.

And many other solar plants are being built: Duke Energy Renewable's Murfreesboro 6.4 MW Solar Project, and BGE Carolina Solar's 3 MW plant.

Apple is building a solar farm to power its new $1 billion data center there.

On the wind energy side, Iberdrola Renewables is planning 150 turbines on 20,000 acres and Invenergy plans to do the same. Together, the projects could power about 100,000 homes.

Who says we can't transition to renewable energy?!