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Solar Gets Big Boost at Wind's Expense in North Carolina

Energy
Ararat Rock Solar farm in Mount Airy, North Carolina. NARENCO

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill into law Thursday that will boost solar production but curb wind energy in the state.

House Bill 589, the result of months of arduous negotiations between utilities and the solar industry, is intended to encourage the continued growth of solar in the state, but it includes a moratorium on new wind projects for the next 18 months.


"I strongly oppose the ugly, last-minute, politically motivated wind moratorium," the governor said in a statement. "However, this fragile and hard-fought solar deal will be lost if I veto this legislation and that veto is sustained."

Cooper also issued an executive order Thursday encouraging the state to help wind projects through initial permit stages during the moratorium.

"We appreciate Governor Cooper's leadership in signing NC H589 today, a measure that will significantly enhance the solar market in North Carolina and continue the growth of solar jobs within the state," Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement.

"The programs created by this legislation, namely the competitive solicitation process for new utility scale solar and the addition of a rooftop solar leasing program, will help North Carolina retain its position as a top market for solar in the United States," Hopper explained. "Unfortunately, the last-minute inclusion of an 18-month wind moratorium was both unnecessary and disappointing and we hope the governor's executive order can help mitigate that portion of the bill. We stand by our colleagues in the wind industry and hope that legislators will see the positive economic development that both solar and wind offer to rural North Carolina."

For a deeper dive:

News & Observer, WRAL, Bloomberg, Charlotte Business Journal, UtilityDive. Commentary: Winston-Salem Journal, Aubrey Patti op-ed

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