- Legislation proposed last week the North Carolina Senate last week would sharply restrict utility-scale renewable energy growth by imposing strict new siting requirements, the News & Observer reports.
- Senate Bill 843 would require a utility-scale wind or solar installation to be built at least a 1.5 miles from any nearby property line. It would also require solar arrays to be concealed by landscaping and wind turbines to be quieter than 35 decibles when heard from neighboring property — about the volume of a human whisper.
- The intent of the legislation is to address complaints from constituents about the safety, appearance and adverse effects on property values of renewables installations, according to Sen. Bill Cook, one of the two Republican state lawmakers sponsoring the bill. Environmentalists are "aghast," the paper reports.
Clean energy advocates see the bill as part of a continuing attack on renewables by North Carolina Republicans. In the most recent legislative session they blocked extension of the state’s 35% investment tax credit for renewable energy projects.
Now advocates say this latest proposal law restricts wind and solar more severely than the state regulates coal and nuclear plants. By the analysis of former state environmental official Robin Smith, the requirements are 40 times stricter than for hazardous waste landfills and 16 times stricter than for swine waste lagoons.
Under the proposed law’s limitations, “not a single solar farm developed in the state would have been built,” according to VP Brian O’Hara of Strata Solar, the state’s biggest solar developer.
The bill was assigned by Senate leaders to the Rules and Operations Committee, which the News & Observer reports is an indication the bill lacks significant support. Republicans with rural constituencies are thought to be unlikely to back it because renewables development has become a cash crop for landowners in their districts.
Along with blocking the renewables tax credit, state GOP lawmakers also unsuccessfully attempted to limit the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) for the third consecutive year.
Sen. Cook, a former Potomac Electric Power Company manager, opposes the REPS and argues it inflate power prices. Duke Energy Carolinas reports residential customers pay $0.54/month for renewable energy associated with the mandate, and Duke Energy Progress reports customers pay $1.17/month.