South Atlantic states lag in utility-scale solar with NC, GA as bright spots for growth
- The nation’s South Atlantic states have installed only 11% of the U.S. utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity of 9,968 MW. North Carolina leads the region with almost 1.5 GW of installed capacity. Georgia is second with 250 M, but is expected to add over 600 MW in 2016.
- The other states in the South Atlantic — Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia — provide only about one-eighth of the region’s utility-scale PV capacity, according to just-released September 2015 EIA numbers.
- The Southwestern states, by contrast, account for 64% of the U.S. utility-scale installed capacity, led by California, Arizona, and Texas. North Carolina, however, was second in new installations in 2015 and is expected to hold its position in the coming year.
The solar insolation — the amount of sun available to panels — of the South Atlantic states is more limited than that of the Southwestern states because the Southeast's higher humidity and resulting cloud cover make the sunlight more diffuse.
Even so, some states in the region have found it feasible to buid out solar generation facilities.
North Carolina’s ability to keep pace with Southwestern states is at least in part attributable to the 12.5% renewables by 2021 mandate it has had in place since 2007. The mandate includes a requirement that 0.2% of the 12.5% must be solar and must be installed by 2018. It is expected to drive nearly 1 GW of new installed capacity in 2016.
In Georgia, the declining cost of solar and consumer demand for clean energy investments from thier utilities are driving growth.
By contrast, Virginia, South Carolina, Florida, and West Virginia have no legally binding mandates. Delaware’s strong 25% mandate, with a 3.5% solar carve-out, extends to 2026, which has delayed solar development. Maryland’s 20% by 2022 mandate, with a 2% by 2020 solar carve-out, has been more successful to date at driving distributed solar growth, but it has yet to significantly add to regional capacity numbers.
Just five states — California, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Utah — added over 80% of the nearly 3,000 MW of new utility-scale solar built in 2015.
- Charlotte Business Journal Federal energy report says N.C. could add a gigawatt’s worth of solar farms in 2016