RALEIGH, NC –Solar power is growing so quickly in North Carolina that goals once considered ambitious are now readily achievable, according to a new report, Star Power, released by Environment North Carolina Research & Policy Center.
“We can get to 20% solar in North Carolina by 2030 if we just keep our foot on the accelerator,” said Maya Gold, Clean Energy Associate with Environment North Carolina. “That’s a small fraction of what’s possible, but it will make a big difference in the quality of our lives and the future of our planet.”
The group’s researchers found that North Carolina’s solar capacity has grown 127% in recent years. At a fifth of this pace, solar could still generate 20% of North Carolina’s electricity within 15 years— a goal once thought improbable by many.
Achieving this target, the report said, would eliminate 4.5 million cars’ worth of carbon pollution each year, and put North Carolina nearly three-quarter of the way to the benchmark set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which requires cuts in power plant carbon pollution of 40 percent by 2030.
“I’m proud that North Carolina has established itself as a solar leader,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison. “A goal of 20% solar energy by 2030 is a bold yet highly achievable goal that will ensure we continue to lead the way in the clean energy economy.”
North Carolina is a forerunner in solar energy, ranking fourth nationally in total solar power capacity. According to the latest solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed more than 3,100 people in North Carolina last year.
“When I started in the solar industry in 2006 there were a handful of solar installation companies and no major, utility-scale projects in North Carolina,” said Erik Lensch, CEO of Entropy Solar Integrators. “Now our state ranks fourth in the country in terms of total solar installed, and my company has grown ten-fold in the past year.”
The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Already, the state is home to more than a million residential and commercial rooftops that could host solar panels, and it has enough technical potential to meet the state’s energy needs 33 times over.
“When it comes to solar energy, the sky’s the limit,” said Ms. Gold. “Getting to 20% solar is just the first step to a future powered entirely by pollution-free energy.”