The solar energy industry experienced a huge growth spurt in 2016, with home solar rooftop units rising 29 percent by mid-year. But the real driver behind the growth of solar power was the utility-scale solar farms nationwide.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. Energy Information Agency
(EIA) projects that renewable energy, which includes solar, wind and hydroelectric plants, will generate 23 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2025 compared to 13 percent in 2015.
This week, two southeastern states made the renewable energy news headlines. North Carolina and Florida are two states that have been working very closely with community leaders, local residents, and environmental experts to get solar projects up and running. Today, we will look at their latest accomplishments.
North Carolina now ranks second in solar power in the U.S.
With the rapid growth of solar power in North Carolina in 2015 and 2016, the state jumped to Number 2, passing Arizona in solar energy capacity. The two states are trailing far behind California, which has over 4,000 megawatts of solar capacity and installed 3,200 megawatts last year alone.
Last month, the Charlotte Observer
reported that solar power jobs grew 20 percent in 2016, adding 1,162 jobs last year, and growing the total to 7,112 the Solar Foundation said in its 2016 census. As an added plus to the job market, The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association
reported in January that renewable energy and energy efficiency businesses, including wind, solar and other renewables, have created the equivalent of 34,000 full-time jobs in the state.
One of the incentives driving solar power in North Carolina and other states is the 30 percent federal tax credit that Congress extended to 2019 last year. The credits will gradually be reduced through 2019. Another big boost is the decreasing costs of solar, making this form of clean energy very economical.
North Carolina's Duke Energy now has a renewables portfolio that spans over a dozen states and has invested over $5 billion in wind and solar projects. As part of a recent settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and environmental groups, Duke Energy is collaborating with the nonprofit NC GreenPower
and paying to install a solar power system at seven North Carolina schools this year.
Florida Power and Light plans to build eight solar projects in next 12 months
That's right, folks. And FPL says each project will be 74.5 MW in capacity, Four of the projects will be completed by December 2017, and the remaining four will be completed by March 1, 2018. Right now, FPL operates 335 MW of solar generating capacity, enough to power 60,000 homes.
Combined, the new solar plants will be able to generate enough electricity to power 120,000 homes annually and will provide a net savings to customers of $39 million over the lifetime of the facilities. "The net savings are due primarily to the projected reduction in the use of fossil fuels more than offsetting the cost to build the plants," FPL notes.
FPL's investment in solar energy in Florida
is over $900 million. The company says the new solar energy centers will provide emission-free power and have been designed to avoid wetlands and minimize their environmental impact. The construction is really cost-effective and pleasing to the eye.
The panels sit close to the ground at about six to eight feet high on racks that fit directly into the soil. They do not require any concrete. Once the installation is complete, FPL says they will require little or no on-site personnel and will place little demand on public services.
Greg Knecht, the deputy executive director of the Florida Chapter of The Nature Conservancy said, "The Nature Conservancy wholeheartedly supports Florida's renewable energy future, and we're pleased to see FPL's shared commitment by adding 2.5 million new solar panels at eight new universal solar power plants."
Florida Power and Light has the distinction of being one of the cleanest, most reliable energy providers
in the nation. Since 2001, FPL has taken the initiative in investing in affordable clean energy infrastructure. This innovative move includes the use of advanced technologies and the phasing out of older coal-fired and oil-burning power plants.
These company initiatives have saved FPL customers over $8.6 billion in fossil fuel costs and prevented 108 million tons of carbon emissions to be thrown into the atmosphere.