By Tyler Dukes and Matthew Burns
Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday signed into law a measure that overhauls the state’s solar energy policy, despite an 18-month moratorium on new wind farm projects that lawmakers tacked onto the plan.
“A strong renewable energy industry is good for our environment and our economy,” Cooper said in a statement. “This bill is critical for the future of significant increases in our already booming solar industry. I strongly oppose the ugly, last-minute, politically motivated wind moratorium. However, this fragile and hard fought solar deal will be lost if I veto this legislation and that veto is sustained.”
The governor said he signed an executive order directing the state Department of Environmental Quality to work with wind energy firms on reviewing permits for proposed projects and checking on prospective sites so projects would be part of the way through the approvals process when the moratorium expires at the end of 2018.
The new law allows third-party leasing of solar arrays for rooftops and community projects, reinstates the “green source rider” that lets large energy customers tell utilities how much of their power they want to get from renewable sources, opens competitive bidding for solar and other capacity to bring prices down and doesn’t change the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard, which dictates that state utilities should be getting 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2021.