Duke Energy and a solar company from New York are in dispute over whether to allow the company to build a solar farm to provide electricity for housing in Fort Bragg.
Sunstone Energy Development wants to build a solar farm that will supply energy to Bragg Communities LLC, which manages privatized military housing in Fort Bragg. Duke claims that Fort Bragg is in his service area and that Sunstone will work effectively as a new utility.
At the heart of the question is whether the status of Fort Bragg as a federal enclave means that it is subject to public service areas defined by North Carolina law. If that’s the case, Duke argues, the NC Utilities Commission is likely to prevent Sunstone from moving forward. If not, Sunstone may be able to advance the project.
Sunstone has asked the Utilities Commission to state that it does not fall under the North Carolina Utilities Act because the proposed project is in Fort Bragg and the sale of electricity will be carried out by a private utility base.
According to Sunstone, the construction of the project will allow Fort Bragg to reduce energy consumption by 8.75%.
Sunstone has reached agreements with private housing providers at 11 other bases across the country. He has already completed projects at Aberdeen Landfill and Fort Mead in Maryland and Fort Riley in Kansas.
Duke argues that promoting the project to Fort Bragg would actually mean unregulated electricity sales.
“We don’t believe Sunstone has a legal right to act as unregulated electricity and make a profit from selling electricity to others as they have suggested,” said Randy Wiles, a Duke Energy spokesman.
At the same time, Duke pointed to the decision of the Public Utilities Commission from 2016 that the sale of solar energy by a non-profit church organization in Greensboro violates state laws on public utilities.
NC WARN, the climate monitoring group, installed panels at the Faith Community Church in 2015. But the commission ruled that the sale actually made the group a utility and that it could not work in Duke’s service area.
Sunstone, Duke argues, is trying to achieve the same by installing solar panels around the Fort Bragg residential area and selling electricity to Bragg communities.
If the Utilities Commission decides on Sunstone, Wiles added, Duke is likely to file an appeal.
“This really sets a precedent that somehow state utilities commissions do not have oversight of federal military bases. … We believe that we have a strong argument as to why the law on public services should be a priority here, ”Wiles said.
Sunstone declined to comment.
Duke, Wiles noted, is working with Fort Brahm to build a floating solar power plant that will provide 1.1 megawatts of electricity from the sprawling base.
Shelby Green, a researcher at the Institute of Energy and Politics, argues that Duke’s position is incompatible with the company’s claims that it wants to move towards a zero future.
“They are actively combating these problems by blocking Sunstone’s attempts to effectively reduce energy consumption, and they are jeopardizing energy security and sustainability in an effort to maintain market share,” Green said.
After an oral debate in November 2021 both Duke and Sunstone submitted the proposed orders to the Housing Commission.
In the proposed order, Sunstone noted that it believes the commission’s ruling will not set a precedent in any situation other than military bases.
If the commission is to run Sunstone, the solar project will still have to undergo a system impact study at Sandhills Utility Services, which operates the network at Fort Bragg. After that there will be the approval of the army.
This story was created with the financial support of the 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent scholarship program for journalists. N&O retains full editorial control over the work.
Sunstone’s solar plans at Fort Brag are facing Duke Energy
Source link Sunstone’s solar plans at Fort Brag are facing Duke Energy