North Carolina has one of the fastest-growing solar industries in the country, and the evidence suggests the clean energy sector has helped boost the state’s economy. Now solar has taken another step forward with Principal Solar’s announcement that it will build a 73 MW solar farm in Fayetteville, which is home to Fort Bragg and lies 65 miles south of Raleigh. Duke Energy Progress has agreed to buy power from the project once the $154 million installation is completed in early 2016.
This is the second project on the drawing board for Principal Solar, which earlier this year said it would build a solar farm in the town of Hope Mills, just seven miles southwest of Fayetteville. According to the company, the Hope Mills solar plant will be the largest such project east of the Rocky Mountains. Both solar projects, once fully launched, should generate enough energy at peak capacity to power approximately 14,400 homes.
Why is North Carolina experiencing this solar rush? Largely the boom has been because of the Tar Heel State’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. Under the plan, investor-owned utilities will have to source 12.5% of their power needs from renewables. Rural electric cooperatives and municipally-owned utilities get a small break from this mandate but still have to source 10% of their power needs from clean energy sources by 2021. Utility giants such as Duke Energy, therefore, are scrambling to find new and clean sources of power. Add the already growing clean technology sector in the nearby Research Triangle, and you have an industry with a strong foundation and primed for continued growth.
Image Credit: MrRenewables