Manufacturer Cree announced Thursday that it will add more than 500 "green" jobs at its Durham headquarters over the course of three years. As many as 275 of those positions will be created by the end of the calendar year; half of them are already filled, CEO Chuck Swoboda said.

The company will add another 300 jobs through 2012, bringing the estimated total to 575. Cree employs some 3,500 people, including 1,500 in Durham.

Cree (Nasdaq: CREE), the maker of light emitting diodes and semiconductors, announced the creation of positions in the areas of clean technology and energy.

Cree closed at $36.97 Thursday. Company shares have soared recently to a 52-week high of $38.97 on Aug. 28 from a low of $12.57.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue was on hand for the announcement.

State Republican leaders used the announcement as a chance to criticize North Carolina’s tax structure and ability to continue to lure new jobs to the Tar Heel state.

State Sen. Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued this statement:

“I am concerned that the next inventor of the latest energy-saving technology is today deciding to locate their business elsewhere because of North Carolina’s unfriendly tax and regulatory structure that makes it difficult for business to prosper. If we want to build a 21st-century economy, then we need a modern tax structure that relieves the burdens on North Carolina’s families and small businesses and leaves room for business to grow."

Cree has previously disclosed plans to expand its operations to meet growing global demand for LEDs. The LEDs are more energy efficient and last longer than other lighting sources.

Planning for expansion, Cree last month raised more than $400 million through a stock offering.

“Cree intends to use the proceeds from the offering for anticipated capital expenditures of approximately $150 million in fiscal year 2010 and additional future capital expenditure needs with the remainder being used for general corporate purposes, including working capital and potential strategic investments,” the company said.

After a strong earnings report in May, Swoboda said he was optimistic about earnings for the quarter ending Sept. 30 and for orders in 2010.

"We are pleased with the strong booking trends for Q4," Swoboda said in a statement. "We also remain optimistic about the growth potential for LED lighting in fiscal 2010, although there is some near term execution risk as we ramp up production to meet these higher targets."