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Plan and Recommendations for Financial Resources for Decommissioning of Utility-Scale Solar Panel Projects

The North Caroline Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ or Department) and the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) found that solar panels are not expected to pose a significant environmental risk to the State while in operation. They also recommended that additional time was needed to further study the feasibility and advisability of establishing a statewide standard to ensure adequate financial resources are available for the decommissioning of utility-scale solar facilities, also referred to as financial assurance (FA). It was not deemed necessary at that time because the current fleet of solar facilities would not reach the end of their useful life for about 10 years. The Department recommended that a future study on FA involve stakeholders and participation from the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC), address salvage values and incentives to reuse, repower, or recycle end-of-life photovoltaic modules, and describe market forces necessary to drive the recommended end-of-life management options. North Carolina is one of the nation’s leaders for the number of solar facilities supplying power to the electricity grid. North Carolina currently has about 5,100 megawatts(MW) of grid-connected solar power. This power is supplied by more than 660 facilities that are greater than 1 MW in size. These facilities are located in 79 counties, and the land is generally leased to the solar developer by the landowner. Based on the last three years of data obtained from the Energy Information Administration, an average of approximately 50 facilities are expected to be added in North Carolina per year, providing an additional 500 MW to the grid per year in total. Facilities are expected to get larger in the future, with more facilities expected to be greater than 5 MW.