Apr 24, 2024 - News

How much wind and solar energy North Carolina produces

Data: Climate Central; Note: Includes both utility-scale and small-scale solar generation; Map: Axios Visuals

North Carolina generated 12,085 gigawatt-hours of electricity from solar power and 519 GWh from wind power in 2023 — up about 1.6%  combined from 2022.

Why it matters: Solar and wind power are producing a comparatively small but growing share of America's overall energy supply.

The big picture: Solar installations generated nearly 240,000 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity across the U.S. in 2023, per an analysis from Climate Central, a climate research nonprofit.

  • That's up 8X compared to 2014, the group says.
  • Wind generation hit about 425,000 GWh last year — double that of a decade ago.

Zoom in: North Carolina ranks No. 4 in solar power capacity and No. 30 in wind power.

  • North Carolina, which once had the second-highest amount of installed solar capacity in the country, has grown that capacity by more than 15 times what it was in 2014.

Reality check: Adding new solar and wind projects can be complicated these days.

Plus: North Carolina's laws have changed in recent years, making it harder for financing to kick off for new solar projects.

What they're saying: Matt Abele, executive director of the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association, said the state's future renewable energy growth could be heavily influenced by the state's utility commission's carbon plan.

  • That plan's goal is to reduce the state's carbon dioxide emissions by 70% by 2030. NCSEA wants to see more solar and wind capacity included in the plans, Abele said.
  • "We believe that there should be a significant amount more solar," Abele told Axios.
  • "We've done previous modeling to show that North Carolina's electricity grid can maintain the same degree of reliability with more solar, wind and storage moving forward," he added.
  • Duke Energy has previously said it needs to add more natural gas plants in the coming years to meet increased energy demand in the state.

What's next: Wind energy could significantly add to North Carolina's renewable capacity, with two areas off the coast of the Outer Banks and Southeast Raleigh leased for future wind turbine developments.

  • The two projects, called Kitty Hawk and Carolina Long Bay, are still moving through the renewable process but could add a total of 4.8 GWh of wind energy in the coming years.
  • Abele said if the state's carbon plan prioritizes wind, it could help the development of those wind farms move faster.
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