North Carolina Tops 1,000 MW of Solar Capacity, But Threats Looming

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Today, North Carolina trails only California, Arizona and New Jersey in total installed solar capacity, according to the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report compiled by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). But despite the state’s rapid progress, solar industry leaders are warning that attempts to freeze North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) will hurt solar growth, as well as the state’s economy.

North Carolina became the fourth state in the nation to top 1,000 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity during the first quarter of 2015. Today, North Carolina trails only California, Arizona and New Jersey in total installed solar capacity, according to the recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report compiled by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). But despite the state’s rapid progress, solar industry leaders are warning that attempts to freeze North Carolina’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) will hurt solar growth, as well as the state’s economy.

“North Carolina is one of the only states in the Southeast to have an RPS. Today, North Carolina is also ranked #1 in the entire South in installed solar capacity. That’s not a coincidence,” said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “Smart public policies, like the state's investment tax credit (ITC) and renewable energy portfolio standard, are paying huge dividends for the state’s economy, creating thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars a year in economic activity. Freezing the state’s renewable energy requirement, along with other regressive provisions of House Bill 332, would have a chilling effect on future solar development, threatening existing jobs, as well as the ability to create new jobs. We also believe it's important to extend the state's hugely successful ITC. ”

Resch said current policies are producing impressive results. Powered by a booming utility-scale market, North Carolina added 58 megawatts (MW) of new solar capacity in Q1, bringing its statewide total to 1,011 MW – enough to power nearly 110,000 homes. Most impressively, the 58 MW added in the first quarter represents a significant 66 percent increase over the same quarter last year.

The report went on to point out that North Carolina had increases in Q1 across all solar sectors, with installed residential and commercial system prices dropping 12 percent in the last year – and down nearly 50 percent since 2010. All totaled, $95 million was invested in North Carolina in the first quarter in new solar installations – and $747 million since the beginning of 2014.

“Because of the strong demand for solar energy, thousands of new, good-paying jobs have been added in North Carolina, benefitting the state’s economy and environment,” Resch said. “To put North Carolina’s remarkable progress in some context, the 1,011 MW of solar installed in the state today is twice as much as the entire country had in 2004.”

Currently, there are 177 solar companies at work throughout the value chain in North Carolina, employing more than 5,600 people, representing manufacturers, contractors, project developers, distributors and installers. What’s more, from an environmental perspective, solar installations in North Carolina are helping to offset more than 1 million metric tons of harmful carbon emissions, which is the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars off the state’s roads and highways.

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