North Carolina became the fourth state to reach one gigawatt of installed solar energy power last week and leads the American southeast in providing clean energy to consumers — but the milestone comes at a challenging time for the state.
Solar energy has become a common sight recently, with solar-umbrellas making an appearance outside UNC's Student Union over the summer and solar panels being installed at Carrboro High School.
In addition to environmental concerns, advocates for clean energy emphasize job opportunities and cost-saving as reasons for the advancement of solar developments.
“The solar industry is providing the equivalent of 4,000 full-time jobs and that is just solar,” said Allison Eckley, spokesperson at the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. “Most of the solar jobs that we are speaking of are helping in the construction period and those have been really good for particularly rural areas."
The impact of job opportunities in areas outside of major cities has also led to increased attention from other southeastern states like Georgia and South Carolina, said Steve Wall, policy research associate for the UNC Institute for the Environment.