AP, LTW

RALEIGH, N.C. — An environmental group says North Carolina could generate at least 28,000 jobs in the solar energy field if it shifts electricity production more from traditional sources to solar energy in the next 20 years.

“Everyone knows solar energy is clean. There has never been a solar spill,” said Elizabeth Ouzts, co-author of the report and state director of “The sun is abundant and free in North Carolina. That’s why capturing it can create tens of thousands of jobs right here that can’t be outsourced.”

The research arm of Environment North Carolina released the report () on Wednesday and held a news conference outside the Legislative Building. The report based findings on raising the percentage of power that comes from solar sources to 14 percent of the state’s electricity consumption by 2030. Current law requires less than 1 percent of electric power to originate from the sun by 2018.

According to the group’s report, "28,000 jobs could be created if minimal solar power components came from North Carolina and that up to 42,000 jobs could be created if 50 percent of components came from local manufacturers."

Ouzts said lawmakers could help the state encourage solar power by approving a tax break to those who build plants for renewable energy manufacturing.

“We applaud the Senate for including a tax credit for green energy manufacturing in its budget,” said Ouzts. “We hope the House will now follow suit, and help North Carolina grow solar.”

Some report highlights:

•"Green electric power businesses in North Carolina – including solar, wind, biomass and energy efficiency – employed more than 10,000 workers as of 2009, generating more than $3.5 billion in revenue annually. For the year beginning July 2008, clean energy firms increased their workforce by 6 percent, despite the damaging impact of the credit crisis and the recession. These clean energy firms are expected to grow another 36 percent through July 2010.

•"North Carolina is already home to more than 100 businesses that manufacture, install, or market solar energy systems. For example, Charlotte-based Sencera manufactures thin-film transistors and integrated circuits for solar photovoltaic panels. The company is now building a thin-film solar panel manufacturing plant, which will employ 65 workers by summer 2010. Durham-based Carolina Solar Energy installed a 650 kilowatt (kW) solar park at the Person County Business and Industrial Center next to U.S. Highway 501 south of Roxboro in 2009. The facility is one of the state’s largest and most visible solar installations. And Vanir Energy, based in Fletcher, designed, built and operates the world’s largest solar thermal heating and cooling system at the Fletcher Business Park, creating 58 jobs.

•"According to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, nearly 300 firms in the state have the technical potential to manufacture solar energy system components. As of 2008, these businesses employed more than 16,000 people."

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