Bill Summary for H 130 (2023-2024)

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Summary date: 

Jun 1 2023

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2023-2024 Session
House Bill 130 (Public) Filed Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Intro. by Arp, Saine, Wray, Miller.

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Bill summary

Senate committee substitute to the 2nd edition makes the following changes.

Adds the following new content.

Enacts GS 130A-309.240, pertaining to decommissioning and restoration requirements for utility-scale solar projects, as part of new Part 2J (Management of Solar Energy Equipment) to Article 9 of GS Chapter 130A. Defines photovoltaic module (PV module) to mean the smallest nondivisible, environmentally protected assembly of photovoltaic cells or other photovoltaic collector technology and ancillary parts intended to generate electrical power under sunlight that is part of a utility-scale solar project. Also defines cessation of operations, expansion or expanded, rebuild or rebuilt, recycle, and utility-scale solar project.

Requires the owner of a utility-scale solar project to be responsible for proper decommissioning of the project upon cessation of operations and restoration of the property, as described below, including all costs, by no later than one year following cessation of operations. Requires the property to be restored: (1) as nearly as practicable to its condition before the utility-scale solar project was sited or (2) to an alternative condition agreed upon in a written contract or lease agreement between the landowner and the project owner; allows land that was cleared of trees for the project to be revegetated or reforested with seedlings. Specifies the following additional minimum steps to be taken in decommissioning a project: (1) Disconnect the solar project from the power grid. (2) Remove all equipment from the solar project, and collect and ship equipment for reuse, or recycle all of the components practicably capable of being recycled, including the PV modules; the entire solar module racking system; aboveground electrical interconnection and distribution cables no longer deemed necessary; subsurface cable no longer deemed necessary; any metal fencing; electrical and electronic devices, including transformers and inverters; and defined term energy storage system batteries. Components that will not be shipped for reuse, and are incapable of being recycled, must be properly disposed of in (i) an industrial landfill or (ii) a municipal solid waste landfill. Requires owners to register with the Department of Environmental Quality (Department) by the specified time frame and update the registration every five years. Sets out information that must be provided. Effective November 1, 2025, and applies to utility-scale solar projects constructed before or after that date.

Requires the owner to submit a decommissioning plan, by the specified time frame, containing six required elements (contact information, project narrative, information on equipment to be salvaged, information on how the property will be restored, cost estimate, and how the financial assurance requirement will be met) prepared by a professional engineer licensed in North Carolina for approval by the Department. Requires the owner of the project to establish financial assurance either by November 1, 2025 (or before starting construction if the project is constructed after November 1, 2025), and at least 90 days prior to the commencement of the project. Specifies that the financial assurance must be in an amount acceptable to the Department that will ensure that sufficient funds are available for decommissioning the project and restoration of the property. Effective November 1, 2025, and applies only to (1) utility-scale solar projects for which applications for certificates of public convenience and necessity are pending or submitted on or after the effective date of the act and (2) utility-scale solar projects that are generating solar energy or are interconnected to a transmission facility on the date this act becomes effective only if the project is rebuilt or expanded after the effective date of this act, in which case the project will be subject to the registration and decommissioning plan requirements of GS 130A-309.240(c) and (d).

Requires the Utilities Commission to develop and maintain a list of all utility-scale projects operating within the State and to provide the Department with an updated list on or before July 1 each year. Permits landowners and local governments to establish more stringent requirements for decommissioning and financial assurance projects for their property/jurisdictions. Permits the Department to collect fees.

Requires the Department to adopt permanent rules establishing criteria to set the amount of financial assurance criteria and other rules as necessary setting criteria for decommissioning plans, registration fees, and any other matter it deems necessary by August 1, 2025.  Requires quarterly reports to the specified NCGA committees on the implementation of the act starting December 1, 2023, through December 1, 2025.

Enacts GS 130A-309.241 requiring the Department and the Department of Commerce to identify existing incentives and grant programs to encourage research and development on recycling and reuse of PV modules and to facilitate growth of the State's PV module recycling and reuse industry. Enacts GS 130A-309.242 creating the Utility-Scale Solar Management Fund consisting of revenue from the proceeds of the fee imposed on owners of utility-scale solar projects. Allows the money in the Fund to be used to implement provisions related to decommissioning. Enacts GS 130A-309.243 permitting enforcement of the act under the remedies provision of GS Chapter 130A, including any appeals taken as part of an enforcement action.

Makes conforming changes to GS 130A-309.06 (pertaining to the powers and duties of the Department).

Requires the Public Staff of the Utilities Commission to identify existing laws that do not require ratepayer contribution or governmental appropriations that would enable recovery of the costs of decommissioning for utility-scale solar facilities not subject to a financial assurance requirement pursuant to GS 130A-309.240, a requirement of local government with jurisdiction over the property where the facility is located, or a lease or other binding contract and to compile a list in consultation with the Department of all utility-scale solar projects operating within the State as of the effective date of the act and to report this information to the NCGA by no later than January 1, 2025.

Specifies rules of construction pertaining to existing contracts. Contains severability clause.

Amends the act’s titles.