US ROUND-UP: Prioritise solar on public lands, DOI told; NJ Clean Energy Equity Act passes

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A community solar project in Minnesota. Image: Xcel Energy.

A round-up of the latest news from the US solar sector, as plans take shape for a post-Trump policy environment.


Department of Interior must prioritise renewables on public lands

17 November 2020: The US Department of the Interior should promote new solar projects by prioritising their development on public lands, a top Democrat official has said.

Speaking to Reuters, US Representative Deb Haaland – reportedly a contender to lead the Department of the Interior within a Biden administration – said renewable energy deployment on federal lands should be allowed to expand at the expense of fossil fuel generation which incumbent President Donald Trump has supported.

Haaland promoted changes to leasing practices in order to promote clean energy sources, arguing the renewable sector to be one that “holds a great future for so many Americans”.

Prioritising solar deployment on public lands is a key ask within the Solar Energy Industries Alliance’s (SEIA) list of recommended policy actions for the incoming Biden administration.


NJ Clean Energy Equity Act passes senate, low-income communities set for solar benefit

16 November 2020: New Jersey’s State Senate has passed the Clean Energy Equity Act, a Bill which could bring hundreds of megawatts of solar to low-income families in the state.

The Bill passed the committee stage on Friday 13 November and passed the full senate yesterday (16 November). It will now need to proceed through the assembly before landing on NJ state governor Phil Murphy’s desk for approval.

The Bill seeks to stimulate the deployment of onsite or community solar programs to help low-income households that would otherwise not be able to afford solar use the technology to reduce their energy bills. Furthermore, it intends to deploy up to 400MW of energy storage in low-income communities over the next decade.

Should it be approved, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will be tasked with allocating 10% of its annual clean energy budget to support the initiatives.

Its senate approval was strongly welcomed by the Solar Energy Industries Alliance (SEIA), whose senior director of Northeast state affairs David Gahl said: “For too long lower income communities and communities of colour haven’t fully experienced the benefits of clean, affordable electricity in New Jersey… A significantly expanded community solar programme, contemplated by the bill, will be a critical tool for providing clean energy access throughout New Jersey.”


Cypress Creek connects largest solar PV project to date in Texas

16 November 2020: Cypress Creek Renewables has energised its 162MW Wagyu solar project in Brazoria County, Texas.

The project, which is Cypress Creek’s largest to date, was constructed by RES, while Cypress Creek is providing ongoing operations and maintenance and asset management services.

Wagyu is backed by a 15-year corporate PPA with coffee giant Starbucks, and also benefits from a 12-year physical hedge provided by energy major BP.

Renewables investor Cubico collaborated with Cypress Creek on sourcing finance and tax equity for the project. Project debt was provided by HSBC, NORD/LB and Rabobank, while tax equity was provided by US Bank.

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