In North Carolina, Solar Means Jobs
Solar power is creating the one thing many Americans have been searching for since the start of the economic recession: jobs. Policy makers around the world have been stressing the economic potential of the renewable energy industry, expecting the creation of thousands of jobs in the coming years, from wind turbine manufacturing to solar panel installation.
In fact, the Triangle Business Journal reveals that a recent report from Environment North Carolina stated that the Tar Heel state could generate at least 28,000 jobs in the solar industry if it shifts electricity production from traditional sources to solar energy in the next 20 years. North Carolina hopes to raise the percentage of power that comes from solar sources to 14 percent of the state's electricity consumption by 2030. Current law requires less than 1 percent of electric power to come from solar sources by 2018. In an article in News Observer, Elizabeth Ouzts, state director of Environment North Carolina, said: "Everyone knows solar energy is clean. There has never been a solar spill. The sun is abundant and free in North Carolina. That's why capturing it can create tens of thousands of jobs right here that can't be outsourced."
According to Environment North Carolina, if the state can commit to deriving 14 percent of its electricity by 2030, it could drive $2.5 billion in total gross investment each year while also creating paying jobs for people. A number of companies in North Carolina are already working on the next generation of solar power technologies.
However, solar energy advocates and business leaders don't think it's enough.
State politicians have expressed possibilities of expanding the green economy to produce jobs and energy that do not rely on fossil fuels. Governor Bev Perdue frequently discusses green jobs and the possibility of using the federal stimulus money to increase employment opportunities in renewable energy industries. She has appointed a North Carolina Energy Policy Council to help develop a long-term energy strategy that will emphasize renewable energy.
The budget approved by the state Senate includes a 25 percent credit. Even so, fewer than a dozen companies are expected to use that credit. Many of the state's solar manufacturers are startup companies that will not benefit from a tax credit because they are not making profits. This has raised questions about how the fund should work.
North Carolina is currently waiting for a federal review of its decisions on who will get money from a Green Business Fund. The state has also yet to announce the recipients of a $2.3 million grant for commercial renewable energy and biofuel projects. With so much to do, North Carolina has certainly stepped up the pace for solar.