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Court Tests Solar PPAs

Eagle Point Solar installationA fight brewing between utilities and third-party solar companies may become a key driver – or restraint – of on-site commercial solar arrays.

At issue is whether solar panel marketers can enter into power purchase agreements with the panels’ host companies, selling the renewable energy to the hosts and bypassing utilities, in markets where the utility supposedly has an exclusive right to sell to local customers. These monopoly markets are a big reason solar hasn’t taken off in the Midwest, unlike in California or New Jersey, the Wall Street Journal says. One case in Iowa is going to the state Supreme Court, and a similar test may take place in Wisconsin this year.

In fact, options for solar financing are expanding in several ways. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing seems to have finally taken off in the commercial sector, after a few years being held back by the federal government during the mortgage crisis. The number of completed PACE projects has more than doubled since June 2011 to at least 168 worth $33 million, the New York Times reports, and this month Texas became the eighth state to pass laws allowing PACE.

EL Insights issue 27 offers a backgrounder covering on-site solar. And for more on power purchase agreements, see EL Insights issue 44.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Pictured: An installation by Eagle Point Solar, the panel supplier whose dispute with utility Alliant Energy is going to the Iowa Supreme Court.

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