When you think of solar energy, you might picture California. But the sun is shining on North Carolina, too. The state recently became the nation’s fourth to reach one billion watts of installed solar capacity.

Robin Aldina, manager of energy research at the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, says the growth is recent.

Aldina: “We’ve seen a sort of steady uptick in the amount of solar installed in North Carolina since about 2011.”

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According to a recent Association study, that uptick translates to $1.8 billion in revenue and more than 5,000 jobs. But challenges remain. State tax breaks for renewable energy are set to expire this year. Federal incentives will still exist, but Aldina says they’re not enough to level the playing field.

Aldina: “Conventional energy benefited from a lot of tax incentives over the years, and, really, renewables and solar have only been around for a few years and they’ve only taken a small amount of incentives comparatively.”

Solar may be less financially attractive without the state incentive, but prices are dropping and Aldina says there is strong and continued consumer support for solar energy in North Carolina.

North Carolina solar graphic

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media/Andrew Lapin.
Image source: EnergyNYC.org.

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Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...