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Energy Update, Dec. 18

In the States

NC – According to a new report by the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), North Carolina is expected to remain second only to California in terms of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) electric installations in 2015. The state, which now accounts for 8% of the national total of megawatts of utility-scale PV capacity, currently has more than 1.5 gigawatts of utility-scale solar power and is expected to have close to 2.5 gigawatts by the end of 2016. The EIA and some state officials noted the state’s renewable energy portfolio standard as a contributing factor for the increase in solar power. Federal energy report says NC could add gigawatt’s worth of solar farms in 2016Triad Business Journal

OR – The state’s Department of Energy recently announced it awarded almost $300,000 in state and federal funds to pilot projects focused on energy storage and microgrid technologies. The money will help fund a two-year demonstration project by the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), the state’s largest consumer-owned utility, which will seek to combine 500 kilowatts of electric energy storage and solar photovoltaic panels. The project, which is known as the Grid Edge Demonstration, seeks to prove how “a consumer-owned utility can help increase community resiliency by providing electricity resources when transmission lines and power facilities are down.” Will Price, an EWEB official, said the project “will [also] test and measure support for three types of community infrastructure, with energy storage for a water and electricity emergency operations hub, a water pump station, and a multi-agency communications site.” Oregon to fund solar, energy storage microgrid demonstration projectRenewable Energy News

SC – Almost 500 small businesses signed a letter to Governor Nikki Haley opposing oil and natural gas drilling off South Carolina’s coast. The letter, which was spearheaded by Don’t Drill SC Lowcountry, a citizen-led nonpartisan advocacy group, states “offshore oil and gas development jeopardizes the advantages that our businesses have” and discusses how drilling may negatively impact the local economy. The letter also notes the state’s increasing influx of tourists and the “distinctive sense of place, [the] fragile ecology, and numerous outdoor recreational opportunities” available in South Carolina, which is one of four states whose coasts are under consideration for energy development. Governor Haley, who is a member of the Outer Continental Shelf Governors Coalition, said through her spokeswoman, Chaney Adams, that she still supports offshore drilling, which she views as “critical to the state’s economic development, energy independence from other countries, and [to] security for our state.” Hundreds of small businesses urge Nikki Haley to oppose offshore energy developmentThe Post and Courier

UT – The Utah Red Hills Renewable Park, the state’s first fully-functional, utility-sized solar power plant, was recently completed. The 632-acre Renewable Park, which is based in Parowan, Utah, includes more than 340,000 solar panels that are projected to reduce carbon emissions by at least 145 tons annually and create more than 200 temporary jobs. Blake Thomas, Renewable Energy Development Coordinator for the Governor’s Office of Energy Development, said the Red Hills project is part of Governor Gary Herbert’s all-of-the-above energy policy, further noting that the project will benefit Utahns. Luigi Resta, CEO of Scatec Solar North America, called Red Hills a “pioneering project, [which] should have positive benefits for many of the counties and the communities with both job creation, new tax benefits and ultimately [low energy prices].” Utah’s first utility-scale solar energy plant amps up to deliverSt. George News

Federal and Regional

Congress recently passed a bipartisan $1.1 trillion omnibus spending package for Fiscal Year 2016, sending the bill to President Barack Obama for his signature. The legislation includes a number of energy-focused proposals, including an extension of tax credits for wind and solar power projects and the lifting of the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports. The solar energy tax credit, for example, which was slated to expire at the end of 2016, was extended for five years. The credit will remain at 30% until 2019 and then will gradually decline to 10% by 2022. Additionally, solar energy projects will now only “be required to begin construction, rather than operation, as is the case now, to qualify for the credit.” According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the credits will attract at least $40 billion in solar investments over the next four years while doubling the jobs in the solar industry. The President is expected to sign the legislation soon. Proposed extension of tax credits for renewable energy would have uneven effectThe New York Times and Solar tax credit to spur $40 billion in U.S. investment by 2020Bloomberg

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