Environment North Carolina
Charlotte Business Journal
John Downey

A new Environment America report shows North Carolina establishing itself as a clean-energy leader beyond its well-established place high in national rankings for solar energy.

Drew Ball, director of state affiliate Environment North Carolina, says the state-by-state assessment of clean-energy technologies shows North Carolina making significant advances in all of the five clean-energy areas considered for the report. They are solar, wind, energy efficiency, electric vehicles and energy storage.

Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, covers the growth of five key clean energy technologies over the last 10 years. And it ranks all 50 states by how much each saw in each of those technologies.

An interactive map, with state breakdowns from the report, is available here. You can download the report itself here.

North Carolina’s progress is uneven, to be sure. But it puts the state squarely in the top half of the nation, says Jennifer Mundt, the policy and innovation adviser for the NC Department of Environmental Quality who was one of four panelists with Ball on a conference call releasing the report in North Carolina. 

The report compares each state’s clean energy progress by the end of 2017 to where it stood in 2008. North Carolina ranked third in the nation last year for gigawatt-hours of solar power it produces annually, hitting 5,783 gigawatt-hours. That is behind only California — the prohibitive leader at 33,733 gigawatt-hours — and Arizona, at 6,498 gigawatt hours.

Charging stations

The third-place ranking might apper surprising to those who know North Carolina outpaces Arizona for the amount of solar capacity on the grid. But though there are fewer megawatts worth of solar projects in Arizona, the state has greater sun resources. It has significantly fewer cloudy days, for instance, than North Carolina.

North Carolina’s next best ranking is for eletrical-vehicle charging stations. The report says North Carolina ranks 10th in the nation, with 499 public charging stations. And that is odd, in its own right, since North Carolina ranks 23rd for electric vehicles (4,018 of them by the end of 2017).

The report ranks North Carolina 12th for improvements in energy efficiency over the last 10 years. 

The state ranks 20th in the nation for utility-scale battery storage (with a megawatt added since 2008). But Ball points out that Duke Energy Progress currently has plans for 13-megawatts worth of new storage on tap in the next few years as part of the Western Carolinas Modernization Project that includes replacing the Asheville Steam Station coal plant with a $750 million natural gas plant.  

North Carolina ranks a relatively weak 30th for wind power, even though the 471-megawatt Amazon Wind Project eastern North Carolina is the largest wind-farm in southeast.