Duke Energy hampering investments in NC Solar farms


It's all about the duration of contracts:

One of the nation’s biggest solar developers is challenging Duke Energy’s purchases of solar energy in a case before the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The complaint by California-based Cypress Creek Renewables focuses on an arcane topic – the term of power-purchase contracts by Duke. But its outcome could affect the way the solar industry continues to grow in the nation’s second-largest solar state.

Cypress Creek approached Duke about power purchase agreements for six large solar farms, totaling 400 megawatts, before Duke had filed its competitive-bids proposal. But Duke offered only five-year contracts instead of the longer terms usual for big projects.

This article is dated (February), but a very recent piece in the paywall-protected Charlotte Business Journal reported that Solar farm connections are down some 75% due to this new approach by Duke Energy to manipulate Solar growth in NC. Cypress Creek is a Santa Monica-based company, and has been very successful in rounding up investment dollars for NC Solar farm projects. But that measly five year contract is a killer, seriously undermining the return on investment (ROI) formula that has been so successful here. Like always, being in control is at the top of Duke Energy's list of priorities:

The potential for change began in November, when Duke sought more control over solar development in a proposal to the Utilities Commission.

Duke wants to be allowed to solicit competitive bids for new solar farms, replacing a system in which developers line up to connect to its grid. The result has been a backlog of projects that often weren’t located where Duke wanted them.

A federal law, called PURPA for short, requires utilities to buy the output of qualified renewable energy projects. Duke contends North Carolina’s application of the law has been too generous to solar developers.

As far as Duke Energy's "location" concern, many of those contracts require developers to upgrade local infrastructure already, so they can't claim they're being put in the wrong places. As a matter of fact, many of those "wrong places" desperately need the economic shot-in-the-arm that Solar farms can provide. But all that aside, allowing Duke Energy to skirt PURPA requirements by dictating unworkable contracts is the equivalent of making them above the law, completely non-responsive to the will of the people, as that law was duly enacted by their representatives in Congress.

This contract thing could be as big a blow to Solar growth in our state as a repeal of NC's REPS would be. Not good.