Soltage, Basalt acquire 57 MW of PURPA solar projects in North Carolina

Earlier today, solar developer & asset owner Soltage announced that has acquired nine solar projects located in North Carolina, in collaboration with British asset owner Basalt Infrastructure Partners. The nine projects are 3-7 MW in size and located in the eastern part of the state.

The projects were acquired from developer Cypress Creek Renewables, which will serve as engineering, procurement and construction contractor for the 57 MW portfolio. This is second portfolio of projects that Soltage and Basalt have invested in, under a $140 million partnership launched late last year.

All of the projects hold power contracts with utilities including Duke and Dominion under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA), which requires that utilities buy power from independent power producers if they can match future estimates of what these utilities would otherwise pay for power.

GTM Research expects PURPA to be the biggest driver of large-scale projects this year and North Carolina has been the largest PURPA market to date, with over 2.2 GW deployed as of last count. However, the state’s largest utility is seeking changes in the current state implementation of the law, which it says is causing it to over-pay for power.

In April Duke gave testimony as to why the law should change, and has requested a shift to an auction system for larger projects in the wake of continually falling power prices. The North Carolina Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on Duke’s request in the next few months, which could dramatically change the state’s solar market.

For now, PURPA is a good deal for developers in North Carolina and a number of other states. “Soltage appreciates the stability and bankability of the PURPA contracts secured in North Carolina against the assets in the current portfolio,” CEO Jesse Grossman told pv magazine.

And while Duke has voiced its displeasure with the current state of PURPA, Dominion is counting on a lot more than the 7 MW it is signed up for in this portfolio. Earlier this week the Virginia utility filed a long-term plan with state regulators which includes securing 990 MW of contracts with third-party solar developers, 950 MW of which would be located in North Carolina.