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NC to Regulate the Decommissioning of Renewable Projects and Managing End-of-Life Equipment

Under a new statute signed into law on July 19, the North Carolina legislature directed the State’s Environmental Management Commission to develop regulations for decommissioning utility-scale solar and wind energy projects and management of end-of-life photovoltaic modules, energy storage system batteries, and other equipment deriving from such projects. See 2019 N.C. Sess. Laws 132. The Commission has until January 1, 2022, to adopt new rules and must establish a stakeholder involvement process by mid-September 2019. Renewable energy facilities owned or leased by a retail electric consumer, and intended for the customer’s own use on-site, are excluded from the regulations.

Background

North Carolina has the second-highest solar photovoltaic capacity in the United States and continues to develop more through its utility-scale bidding process, the Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy (CPRE) program, and customer rebates for residential solar installation offered by the state’s private utility Duke Energy.

In developing the new regulations, North Carolina will join a growing trend in state-level regulation of end-of-life solar energy equipment. Notably, California recently proposed rules to manage end-of-life solar energy equipment under its universal waste program, and Washington has mandated that photovoltaic panel manufacturers implement take-back programs. Following Washington's lead, New York’s Senate has passed similar legislation that is now under consideration by the State House.

Details of Rulemaking Directive

In developing the decommissioning and end-of-life rules, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) must consider the following factors:

  • Whether the end-of-life photovoltaic modules, energy storage system batteries and other equipment from utility-scale wind and solar energy projects (“spent renewables equipment”) qualify as hazardous waste under state and/or federal law.

  • Best practices for managing spent renewables equipment, including reuse, refurbishment, recycling, and disposal, and the economic and environmental costs and benefits associated with each management practice.

  • Expected economically productive life span of renewables equipment.

  • Potential impacts spent renewables equipment could have on state landfills.

  • Whether financial assurance requirements are necessary to ensure proper decommissioning of utility-scale solar projects.

  • Any necessary infrastructure for developing a means to collect and transport spent renewables equipment.

  • Other jurisdictions’ methods of managing spent renewables equipment.

  • Whether manufacturer stewardship programs for the recycling of spent renewables equipment should be established for smaller solar installations.

By September 18, 2019, NCDEQ must establish a process for involving stakeholders in the development of the regulations, and beginning December 1, 2019, the Commission and DEQ must provide quarterly reports on their progress to the State legislature and the North Carolina Environmental Review Committee.

Interested parties such as renewable energy companies, manufacturers, and trade organizations should prepare to participate in the rulemaking process to ensure that the final rules reflect the interests and needs of the renewable energy sector.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume IX, Number 212

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About this Author

Peter J. Schaumberg Energy & Mineral Resources Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Peter's practice focuses on issues related to the development of energy and mineral resources on federal lands offshore and onshore. 

He counsels major multinational corporations, domestic companies, and leading industry trade associations regarding development and operations on the Outer Continental Shelf and on federally-managed lands onshore, including oil & gas, solar, wind, and geothermal resources. Peter also advises mining company and trade association clients on matters related to the development of hard-rock mineral resources on public lands. He is a highly recognized...

202-789-6043
Benjamin E. Apple Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Associate

Ben helps clients navigate the complex environmental regulatory and litigation landscape of renewable energy development, brownfields due diligence and acquisition, and Superfund cleanups.

Ben also works closely on general environmental compliance issues surrounding electrical utilities in his role supporting firm Chairman Ben Wilson with his duties as Court-Appointed Monitor for the Duke Energy coal ash spill remediation project.

Ben’s core practice areas include:

  • Navigating the myriad environmental issues that arise in renewable energy development from land acquisition to environmental permitting to end-of-life waste management;
  • Guiding clients through the acquisition and leasing of brownfields, including due diligence and risk management;
  • Advising clients on defending against Superfund liability and negotiating remediation plans at major cleanup sites across the nation;
  • Litigating complex Superfund and tort matters arising out of historical contamination and present-day cleanups; and
  • Designing and implementing environmental, health, and safety (EHS) compliance systems to ensure regulatory compliance, especially in the electrical utility sector.

Prior to joining Beveridge & Diamond, Ben studied at Harvard Law School, where he served as a managing editor of the Harvard Environmental Law Review. Prior to law school, Ben worked as a lobster fishery biologist and research diver for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute.

Ben is located in Chapel Hill, NC, and practices out of our Washington, DC office.

202-789-6002
Hilary T. Jacobs Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Associate

Hilary maintains a general environmental litigation and regulatory practice, working with clients nationwide across industrial sectors.

She joined the Firm following her graduation from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law (UM Carey Law). 

While at UM Carey Law, Hilary served as a law clerk in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, Water Enforcement Division, and served as Articles Editor for the Maryland Law Review. She also worked in the University of Maryland’s Environmental Law Clinic to...

202-789-6086
Jessalee L. Landfried Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Associate

Jessalee maintains a general regulatory and litigation practice, with a particular focus on air, climate, subsurface contamination, and environmental compliance assessments.

Jessalee L. Landfried regularly counsels clients in the energy, tech, and automotive sectors on a variety of programs and compliance issues arising under the Clean Air Act, RCRA, and the Clean Water Act. In addition to her regulatory practice, she represents clients in litigation arising under a broad range of federal and state environmental statutes, including environmental class action suits...

202-789-6071