South Carolina PSC again rejects solar as part of Lee gas project

The Public Service Commission of South Carolina on July 30 rejected a petition for hearing or reconsideration of its April 9 order approving a 750-MW, gas-fired power project of Duke Energy Carolinas LLC and North Carolina Electric Membership Corp.

The environmental groups South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy had protected that Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Convenience and Necessity the Lee 750-MW combined-cyle generating plant, to be located near Anderson, S.C. They alleged that the certificate was not granted in compliance with the Utility Facility Siting and Environmental Protection Act.

Duke will own 650 MW of the new plant, while the North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. will own 100 MW.

Under the Siting Act, the commission may not grant a certificate for the construction of a major utility facility unless it determines the nature of the facility’s environmental impact and further determines that the facility’s probable environmental impact is justified considering “available technology and the nature and economics of various alternatives and other pertinent considerations.”

To meet this requirement, the Environmental Intervenors recommended that the commission condition approval of the Lee Project on the prerequisite that DEC solicit bids for complementary, cost-effective solar power in order to reduce the project’s consumption of natural gas which they argue will reduce its operating costs and environmental impacts. Specifically, they advocated for a 375-MW solar facility to be located at or near the Lee Project site so that solar energy could offset gas generation when conditions exist for economic solar energy production. Additionally, they said that this solar project would only have to be accepted if a bid for that project was at or lower than the cost of operating the gas plant.

The commission said in its July 30 decision that it has recognized the desire to utilize renewable energy sources, but found no need for the additional solar capacity advocated by the environmental groups. The commission stated that the combined cycle generating station could not be built with lower than the company-needed 650 MW because the reliability and operating capacity of the solar facility cannot meet the capacity needs of the Lee Project.

The Lee project approval order then determined that to meet this demonstrated need, a full 650 MW of combined cycle generation would still be necessary, and any MWs generated from solar would be inaddition to the 650 MW capacity requirements. Based on this reasoning, the commission declined the proposal for a solar generating facility to accompany the combined cycle Lee Project. In addition, the commission held that adding the proposed solar component would materially change the application and change the type of facility being requested.

“The proposal for solar generation at or near the Lee Project to replace gas generation as an alternative to the Lee Project’s required capacity would necessitate a new 375 MW solar facility to be constructed because no such solar facility currently exists,” the commission ruled. “Similarly, the Environmental Intervenors’ argument that DEC be required to purchase energy, and not capacity, does not account for this same fact. Among other findings in Order No. 2014-408 that addressed the Environmental Intervenors’ proposal, the Order found that solar power’s intermittent availability cannot meet the base load requirements forming the purpose of the Lee Project, and DEC and NCEMC would still need that Project’s full capacity. Order 20 14-408 concluded that an additional 375 MW of solar capacity was not needed at this time.”

The commission in the July 30 rejection reaffirmed its prior reasoning in this regard.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.