The explosive growth of solar power across the country has provided more than new sources of energy; it has fueled thousands of high-paying jobs. Rank the states in the Southeast by any number of solar benchmarks, however, and you see a striking disparity. Take the amount of installed solar, for instance—North Carolina ranks fourth, while Alabama ranks forty-first.
A new SELC website, solarinthesunnysouth.org, provides state-by-state insights into the status of solar in the Southeast where, despite abundant sunshine, solar energy remains vastly underutilized. The website offers state-specific statistics, as well as a regional perspective.
Recent news suggests that state policy makers and utility commissions are beginning to understand these statistics and the valuable role of solar in the future of the Southeast. Just last year South Carolina passed its Solar Act, opening the door to more installations, while Georgia made progress on solar farm installations.
Yet last week, North Carolina – long the regional leader in solar – passed a state budget ending a job-stimulating tax credit for the industry. It was programs like this that put North Carolina at the top of the solar jobs list in the Southeast, with 5,600 jobs created. Compare that to Alabama’s 500 or South Carolina’s 700 and the potential for growth is clear.
The spread of solar energy in the sunny south is inevitable, but just how much our communities benefit, in the form of jobs and clean energy, will depend on policy makers, utilities, and citizens working together toward a solar-powered Southeast.