Industries Energy/Green

N.C. leads the South in solar energy

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Virginia might have cheap nuclear power, but North Carolina is leading the way in the South when it comes to solar power, according to a report from Duke University.

North Carolina, which had almost no large-scale solar energy seven years ago, now ranks first in the Southeast and fourth in the nation in solar energy capacity, says the report.

"North Carolina is in an enviable position when it comes to solar power development,” said the report’s lead author, Lukas Brun, senior research analyst at Duke’s Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC). “From being virtually nonexistent in 2008, it is today the South’s leader in solar power. The result has been a growth in companies and employment in the industry, providing widespread benefits to the state."

A sunny climate, interested companies and investor- and business-friendly policies have combined to boost solar energy in the Tar Heel state. North Carolina now has 150 utility-scale solar facilities, with another 377 facilities planned.

The economic impact of N.C.’s solar industry extends beyond its solar facilities. The report describes a solar “value chain” of investors, solar developers, construction contractors and solar panel and component manufacturers including more than 450 companies.

Together, these companies support some 4,300 jobs and represent a $2 billion investment. In addition to jobs, solar industry-related businesses provide income for landowners and tax revenue for N.C. towns, the report states.

Those economic benefits are spread across different regions of the state, including urban areas and rural counties such as Catawba, Robeson and Wayne, which lead the state in large-scale solar capacity.

The Environmental Defense Fund sponsored the research for the report.

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