When people think of big states for solar power, they think of states like California, Arizona, Colorado and Nevada—sun-drenched states with vast open spaces where even the color leaches off rocks and seems to lie somewhere underground. They probably don’t think of leafy, green North Carolina, but they should reconsider. The state has recently surpassed 1 gigawatt of installed solar power—joining a list of only four states—Colorado and Nevada aren’t among them.
On Sept. 24 the NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) reported that the state reached 1.04 gigawatts of installed solar power throughout the state. In 2014 only California (10 gigawatts), Arizona (2.1 gigawatts) and New Jersey (1.5 gigawatts) had surpassed 1 gigawatt of online solar power, according to Environment America’s recent Lighting the Way III report. Coincidentally North Carolina was the only state in the Southeast to make the report’s top 10 list.
Importantly the increased solar power in North Carolina is an economic driver. NCSEA said that the solar industry now accounts for more than $1.6 billion in revenue.
“Solar has been a fantastic economic driver in North Carolina’s clean energy industry for the past several years, and reaching one gigawatt is the latest impressive milestone for this growing market,” said Robin Aldina, NCSEA’s manager of Energy Research.
The organization added that its Clean Energy Industry Census found that the state’s solar industry accounts for over 4,000 full-time equivalent jobs and 450 clean energy firms.
The solar advocacy organization attributed success of the state’s solar industry to energy policies and incentives including North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS), and the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit (REITC)—a 35 percent tax credit on renewable energy products.
However, the success of the state’s solar programs may soon change. The state’s General Assembly recently chose to including a sunset of the REITC. “This policy shift is not the first time our clean energy economy has faced challenges,” said Allison Eckley, NCSEA’s communications manager. “However, we know this is a resilient industry. North Carolina clean energy firms have overcome multiple policy threats in an uncertain business climate to achieve tremendous growth in jobs and revenues since 2008.”
The organization will discuss changes to policy at its 7th annual Making Energy Work (MEW) conference Oct. 6-7, 2015 which is being held at the Raleigh Convention Center.Tweet