North and South Carolina receive $2M to streamline renewable energy development

RALIEGH — As developers eye the Carolinas for several large, utility solar projects, the Department of Energy has awarded both states $2 million to help streamline the permitting process by making community engagement easier.

Part of the Renewable Energy Siting through Technical Engagement and Planning program, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center will collaborate with local stakeholders, developers, utilities, landowners and governments to create an online assistance and education hub.

As community input plays a large role in the permitting process, Steve Kalland, the executive director of the energy collaborative, said the hub aims to address common concerns and questions in one, easily accessible place.

“A lot of these permitting processes around the country are asking the same questions and so if you add it up and you add up all of the delays that are happening in all of the different proceedings, it’s a lot of delay,” he said. “If we can answer some of these questions one time and make the information available to everybody, hopefully that will squeeze a lot of time out of the overall picture of permitting.”

To develop the online hub, Kalland said the collaborative is working with the Center for Energy Education, which frequently works with disadvantaged communities that have been negatively impacted in the past by the development of energy projects.

“We’re gonna basically do a bunch of survey work, and meetings with landowners, policy-makers, developers and others ... to see if we can get a good sense of what the current slate of questions really are,” he said. “We’re going to go through the literature and figure out what’s already been answered and identify the questions where there’s still research needed.”

Once up, Kalland hopes this portal will mean permitting conversations will focus more on those unanswered questions and direct community concerns rather than retreading the common questions. That could allow developers, local leaders, and community members to come to a consensus quicker on whether a project should move forward.

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Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.

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