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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - Utilities fighting solar in Indiana, but accomodating, and even embracing, solar in North Carolina

Updating this Jan. 28th ILB post on net metering, re HB 1320, about which the Bloomington Herald-Times editorialized "Indiana House bill casts a cloud over more use of solar energy," two items of interest.

First, the IBJ reported on Feb. 21st that "the utility issue of net metering is drawing opposition from conservative groups with a libertarian bent." More:

The bill allows investor-owned electric utilities to seek permission from regulators to pay less than the retail rate for energy to customers that use “distributed generation,” including solar. It would also allow them to levy additional fixed charges for connecting those customers to the grid.

Currently, Indiana requires utilities like Duke Energy and Indianapolis Power & Light to offer “net metering,” which gives solar users full credit for any excess energy they produce.

And there is this fascinating Feb. 18th story by Katie Fehrenbacher in Gigaom about how:
The world’s largest internet companies are turning to clean power to run their data centers like never before. This month we saw huge clean power deals from Apple, including big solar projects planned in California and Arizona, and a big wind buy from Google to provide local power for its headquarters in Silicon Valley. * * *

[I]n 2009 when Apple and Facebook were considering building data centers in North Carolina, clean power was still an early idea. It was attractive in some emerging ways, but the state and local utilities weren’t offering the type of clean power options that the internet companies wanted.

That’s why in late 2011 Apple started building its unusual and massive solar farms in the area. Built by SunPower, these solar farms now stretch across hundreds of acres and now generate more solar power than Apple needs for that facility. The company also has a fuel cell farm built beside the data center. Apple agreed to plug into the state’s grid, but it was also generating its own clean power that went back onto the grid and made up for its use of the dirty grid power.

Apple’s solar farms ended up putting pressure on local utility Duke Energy and the state to recognize that if there was ample clean power provided to these customers from the power grid, then they wouldn’t need to build their own. In late 2013, Duke Energy officially asked the state’s regulators if it could sell clean power from new sources to large energy customers that were willing to buy it — yes, thanks to restrictive regulations and an electricity industry that moves at a glacial pace, this formerly wasn’t allowed.

Now Duke Energy has a clean energy supply program in the state. And just this week, Duke Energy issued a request for proposal asking for project builders to build 50 MW worth of solar projects in the state. * * *

Solar panels are at the cheapest time in history. Wind power, too, is similarly cheap. Google’s deal to buy power from the revamped Altamont Pass shows how wind turbines have come down considerably in price and up in power.

Now, the official embrace of these internet companies and clean power is just one part of the story. There’s a whole host of smaller data center operators that can’t afford to deal at the scale of Google or Apple. But Google and Apple are still paving the way for the smaller companies by changing utilities minds that there’s a good business to be had in clean power.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 22, 2015 03:38 PM
Posted to Indiana Government