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N.C. Senate proposal could hamper solar industry – Greensboro – The Business Journal

Solar developers say an N.C. Senate proposal to dismiss all the state’s current utility regulators leaves investors and lenders unwilling to commit to new projects.

And that unwillingness could persist for months, stalling the growth of the industry in late 2013 going into next year. Solar development, from solar farms to rooftop projects, has been in growth mode in the Triad for several years, with O2 Energies announcing this week plans for two projects that could support a megapark site in Montgomery County.

At issue is a more than half-finished proceeding to set what is called the “avoided-cost rate” for North Carolina’s three major utilities. That rate, determined every two years by the N.C. Utilities Commission, sets a floor on what utilities will pay for power they buy from solar projects rated at 5 megawatts or less.

John Morrison, chief operating officer of Strata Solar in Chapel Hill, says the commission is preparing to rule by June. But if a new commission is appointed, the proceedings will essentially have to start again from scratch.

“We can’t tell investors what their returns are going to be until those (avoided cost) rates are set,” he says. “That sort of uncertainty is hard on the business and makes it hard for anybody trying to put deals together.”

via N.C. Senate proposal could hamper solar industry – Greensboro – The Business Journal.