Archives

Commentary, News

If you’re looking for a measure of good news to get you through the weekend (and are willing to look outside North Carolina), check out this story (and the amazing photos) on NPR.org detailing the massive new solar power plant in the northwest African nation of Morocco. To quote:

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

Image: http://www.maroc.ma/en

“Morocco has officially turned on a massive solar power plant in the Sahara Desert, kicking off the first phase of a planned project to provide renewable energy to more than a million Moroccans.

The Noor I power plant is located near the town of Ouarzazate, on the edge of the Sahara. It’s capable of generating up to 160 megawatts of power and covers thousands of acres of desert, making the first stage alone one of the world’s biggest solar thermal power plants.

When the next two phases, Noor II and Noor III, are finished, the plant will be the single largest solar power production facility in the world, The Guardian says.

Morocco currently relies on imported sources for 97 percent of its energy consumption, according to the World Bank, which helped fund the Noor power plant project. Investing in renewable energy will make Morocco less reliant on those imports as well as reduce the nation’s long-term carbon emissions by millions of tons.”

The plant is especially exciting because it uses a technology that will allow it to generate electricity well after the sun goes down each day.

Mind you this is a country with roughly one-fifth the gross domestic product of North Carolina. And still, somehow, it has managed to muster the kind of world-changing investment that all nations need to be pursuing. If the Moroccans can do it, surely so can Americans (and North Carolinians). The fact that the U.S. solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy and created more jobs than were created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined last year indicates that we’re already on the right track.

For more information on North Carolina’s mixed/wavering commitment to this essential field, check out a pair of interviews on yesterday’s edition of WUNC’s The State of Things by clicking here and here.

Commentary

This morning’s Fayetteville Observer gets it exactly right with this editorial deriding efforts to undermine North Carolina’s promising solar energy industry. Here’s an excerpt:

“A state program that let solar developers deduct 35 percent of their startup costs from their state tax bill helped North Carolina become one of the top states in solar energy production. Anti-solar zealots who want to leave us dependent on the energy sources of the past succeeded in killing the tax break last year, but the state still has aggressive targets for renewable-energy use. More solar farms are coming, including a 200-acre development in Hoke County that was approved this month.

Critics of solar want to stick with conventional plants, especially now that fracking has given this country a near glut of natural gas. They want, too, to encourage a return to nuclear power. But even a traditional energy giant like Duke Energy is aggressively developing solar, believing a diverse array of energy sources is the best approach to an uncertain future.

State Sen. Andrew Brock, a Davie County Republican, has led the efforts to undo solar incentives and he may return to the fight in the next session. “I’m a free market person,” he told an Observer reporter. “I think the market should take hold.” We think it already has, but if he wants to end solar subsidies, we encourage him to get rid of all the tax breaks the General Assembly has given to the power industry, not just those that helped solar.

But that’s not the wisest course. Solar equipment costs have dropped dramatically and innovative battery technology will soon solve solar’s difficult relationship with sunsets and cloudy days. It’s a big part of our energy future, and it has brought new tax revenue and jobs to our most troubled rural economies.

Fayetteville’s state Rep. John Szoka is a solar fan and co-chair of the Energy Policy Committee. He believes we need to continue our commitment to solar and that attempts to repeal other renewable energy laws will fail. They should, and the solar tax credit should be brought back to help smaller developers and homeowners. We have seen the future of energy, right here in our own backyard, and its name is solar.”

Commentary

Solar powerThe following essay was written By Rachel Morales, Clean Energy Organizer at Environment North Carolina.

Don’t let North Carolina’s commitment to solar power fade
By Rachel Morales

Solar power has been an enormous success in North Carolina. During each of the last two years, North Carolina has ranked fourth in the nation in the amount of solar capacity added.

What’s more, that growth is no mistake or accident. In the last decade, our state leaders passed forward-thinking policies, like tax incentives to encourage individuals to buy solar and a “renewable energy portfolio” standard that requires a portion of North Carolina’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources.

Indeed, these and other policies have spurred a solar boom in the state. Solar businesses have popped up statewide and more and more families, businesses, and farms have decided to go solar. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) North Carolina now generates 1,088 megawatts of solar energy each year, enough to power 116,000 homes. A new poll by the ClearPath Foundation found that 84 percent of registered voters “support action to accelerate the development and use of clean energy,” including 72 percent of Republican voters.

At a glance, Duke Energy is also a proponent of solar energy. The energy giant has installed more than 600 megawatts of solar capacity to date and is touting plans to bring more online in 2016.

Unfortunately, behind the scenes, the company has taken action to discourage rooftop solar in the state. Read More

Commentary

North Carolina state sealThe New Bern Sun Journal featured a powerful op-ed over the weekend by Carrie Clark and Dan Crawford of the League of Conservation Voters that skewered the Governor’s penchant for talking out of both sides of his mouth when it comes to North Carolina’s natural environment. As Clark and Crawford explained, McCrory has repeatedly sought to portray himself as a friend of renewable energy and environmental protection (positions he knows to be popular with voters) even as his administration promotes policies that go in precisely the opposite direction:

“Consider the case of North Carolina’s growing solar industry. As McCrory touts the need to support solar energy in our state, he talks out of the other side of its mouth when he signs legislation that ends it. This short-sighted reversal comes just as the industry was taking off. In 2014, the solar industry provided 4,000 North Carolinians with jobs, but by allowing the Renewable Energy Investment Tax Credit to expire, the McCrory administration is effectively turning out the lights on solar energy in North Carolina.

One side of the McCrory administration will tell you that they are simply trying to get the government out of the business of picking winners and losers. Here again, they are being two-faced because McCrory will point to the importance of creating jobs when justifying government subsidies for fracking.

The same duplicitous language is evident in McCrory’s economic rationale for supporting dirty energy. While van der Vaart vocalizes energy affordability as a “weapon against poverty,” he openly fights against renewable energy sources as part of the energy mix, which have proven cost-savings for all North Carolinians, not to mention reduced public health and environmental impacts….

While McCrory’s public-facing persona continues to take advantage of photo ops such as the “historic” construction of a wind farm, his talking head van der Vaart guts renewable energy from the inside. Under van der Vaart, the McCrory administration outlined the “harms” of solar energy panels on our environment; a PR campaign in support of opening North Carolina’s coast to offshore oil and gas drilling; and not one but two lawsuits against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on key federal policies: the Clean Water Rule and Clean Power Plan.”

The bottom line: North Carolina’s state motto is, of course, Esse quam videri (“To be rather than to seem”). Unfortunately, when it comes to the natural environment, the stance of the McCrory administration is almost always the precise opposite of this maxim. Click here to read the entire op-ed.