The southeastern U.S., including Florida (the Sunshine State) have a great solar power resource and are underutilizing it—except in North Carolina and perhaps Georgia. That’s according to recent data from the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), which reports on the U.S. energy infrastructure on a regular basis and has been beefing up its reporting on solar power lately. It found that the majority of utility-scale solar power in the southeast is being installed in those two states with the majority being installed in North Carolina.
These states are in interesting case because North Carolina has a relatively small renewable energy requirement through the state’s renewable portfolio standard that requires it source 12.5 percent of it’s energy from renewables by 2021—other states like California and New York have now upped their RPS’s to 30 percent or more by 2020 and more than 50 percent in 2030. Georgia has no RPS requirements.
Likewise recent news from a small North Carolina town’s choice to reject a solar farm for what the media portrayed as some antiquated reasons, show it as a place that might not be so friendly to solar. Yet North Carolina continues to be one of the largest states in the U.S. for solar power.
“In 2014, North Carolina was second only to California in terms of utility-scale PV additions,” EIA stated. “The top five states in terms of expected utility-scale PV additions in 2015—California, North Carolina, Nevada, Georgia, and Utah—account for more than 80% of the nearly 3,000 MW of utility-scale solar PV expected to be added in the United States during 2015,” it added.
By the end of 2016 North Carolina could have roughly 2,500 MWs of solar power in service, according to the Triad Business Journal. “In North Carolina, solar has proven the most competitive of all renewable resources in the state. And state regulations have encouraged the development of utility-scale solar for years in ways that allowed the solar industry to get an early foothold in the state,” the journal said.
The expansion of utility-scale solar power in North Carolina can also be attributed to tech companies in the state. As companies like Google and Apple have announced data center project in the state they’ve also chosen to power their solar power plants that they either own or purchase the power from the solar farms. That’s created interesting new partnerships like Duke Energy’s Green Source Rider with Google, allowing Google pay for all the costs associated with a solar project, rather letting some of Duke Energy’s other customers absorb some of the costs.
Georgia hasn’t installed much solar power at this point, but that changes in 2016. “Georgia plans to construct thirteen solar PV projects totaling 607 MW with expected in-service dates of 2015 or 2016,” EIA reported. “Five of these new projects (totaling 166 MW) will be built on U.S. military bases as a result of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC), Georgia Power Company, and the U.S. Department of Defense.”Tweet