North Carolina has the second-highest amount of installed utility-scale solar photovoltaic owned by independent power producers in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Currently, 1,173 MW, or 92 percent, of North Carolina’s 1,271 MW of utility-scale PV capacity is certified to have qualifying facility (QF) small power producer status under a decades-old federal mandate. Congress passed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) to promote alternative energy resources and energy efficiency, and individual states then set specifics such as the avoided cost calculation and minimum capacity threshold.
North Carolina ranks only behind California in total installed utility-scale solar PV capacity last year, thanks in part to state policies like a renewable portfolio standard and the state’s renewable energy tax credit. Arizona and Nevada follow at three and four, according to the EIA.
In North Carolina, utilities are required to establish up to 15-year fixed-avoided cost contracts for eligible solar PV qualifying facilities with a contract capacity of up to 5 MW. The availability of long-term contracts helps solar PV developers secure project financing. North Carolina’s approach differs from states such as Arizona or Nevada in that utilities offer contracts with shorter contract terms or with lower capacity thresholds.