The reason why the sunny U.S. Southeast resisted solar power for years is the same reason that explains its about-face: cost.
The region was long the country’s smallest solar market, in part because state regulators argued it was just too expensive. Now that prices have come down sharply, area utilities are embracing power from the sun.
Virginia is the latest southeast state planning a solar shift, with a law this month calling for 5.5 gigawatts of wind and solar power. Florida recently replaced an expensive coal-fired plant with cheap solar power, and developers are eyeing South Carolina, where a $20 billion nuclear power project was abandoned last year. Meanwhile, First Solar Inc., the largest U.S. panel producer, is developing a solar farm in Georgia that’s expected to be the region’s biggest.
“This is really all about cost competitiveness,” Colin Meehan, First Solar’s director of regulatory & public affairs, said during a panel discussion Tuesday at Infocast’s Solar Power Finance & Investment Summit in San Diego.