This is a testimonial to the extraordinary resilience and success of solar energy in North Carolina. Despite legislative efforts to slow its growth and utility efforts to control it, this state ranks third in the nation for increases in solar energy generation in the past decade. It’s dramatic — this state produced nearly 877 times more solar electricity in 2017 than it did in 2008, a rise from 7 gigawatt hours to 5,783.
How did that happen? First, there was strong enthusiasm and a host of startup companies eager to get into the solar business. Second, this state has plentiful sunshine and thousands of square miles of flat, open, underused farmland that’s available for inexpensive leasing. The synergy between those two factors proved irresistible.
Meanwhile, many of this state’s legislative leaders have quietly fought the trend, taking away the early incentive programs that helped all those startups get rolling. But by the time that happened, solar equipment costs had plummeted and were competitive with the cheapest fossil-fuel generation costs. And now, battery technology has evolved as well, making solar increasingly an option for around-the-clock power.
Meanwhile, this state is only 30th in the nation in wind-power growth, despite having broad expanses of suitable siting for wind farms offshore and on our coastal plain. That’s because lawmakers slapped a moratorium on new wind-energy projects, ostensibly because of potential conflicts with coastal military training, but more likely because it’s an additional threat to existing fossil-fueled energy.
But that will change too. The pressure will only grow to adopt solar and wind as equipment prices continue to fall. It may end up disrupting existing utility systems, but the bottom line for the consumer is nothing but good.