RALEIGH – Raleigh’s residents are adding more solar capacity, a new report finds.  Now, according to an analysis of data from 67 U.S. cities, Raleigh ranks 42nd when it comes to the average solar power per person.

The Shining Cities report, the eighth annual report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center and the Frontier Group, found that in Raleigh, the area produces 33.8 watts of solar power per person and 15.8 megawatts of solar power overall.

The overall number ranks Raleigh 37th among the cities studied in the report, and the per capita number places Raleigh 42nd.

But the data analyzed by the report’s authors comes from the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, which according to the report was current as of the end of October.  As such, the report notes “the capacity in Raleigh as of 31 December 2021 may be higher than the figure listed, and this year’s figure may not be directly comparable to previous reports.”

Report: North Carolina ranks No. 3 in solar, emerging as renewable energy leader

Solar on the rise

Overall, a November 2021 report found that North Carolina was the third ranked state in the U.S. when it came to the growth of energy produced through solar.

According to the report’s executive summary, solar power installations continue to be deployed, and cities are playing a “key role.”

The authors found that there are now 121.4 gigawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity in the country, which is enough solar energy to power more than 23 million homes.

Cities like Raleigh and Charlotte, the report notes, can be a major source of electricity demand as well as a source of adequate rooftop space to install solar panels.  As such, the report notes, these cities and others like them “have the potential to be major sources of clean energy production as well.”

Globally, energy produced from wind and solar power generated 10% of all energy in 2021.

Clean energy surges: Wind, solar generate record 10% of world’s power

Solar power and EVs

According to the report, electric vehicles may play a critical role in the transformation of the energy economy.  That’s because electric vehicles may play an important function for storing any excess energy produced through solar panels in their lithium-ion batteries, which can be deployed in the future to meet transportation needs.

“Fleets of electric cars and buses could someday stabilize the grid by banking solar power in their batteries for later deployment,” the report notes.  One study cited in the report found that a successful deployment of the so-called “vehicle to grid” capable electric vehicles could increase the development of renewable energy by almost 30%.

North Carolina is now poised to establish itself as a hub for electric vehicles, Chris Chung, the CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, told WRAL TechWire following the announcement in December 2021 that Toyota would invest nearly $1.3 million to build an electric vehicle battery assembly plant in Randolph County.

“You can’t understate how important it is to have a company such as Toyota, with Toyota’s stature, make this sort of selection,” said Chung in December.  “It establishes North Carolina as a hub for a sector that we know is going to be growing in importance for the American economy in the decades ahead.”

Chung also told WRAL TechWire in December that the Toyota announcement would “make big waves” and would get the state in conversation with other companies not yet in the state’s economic development prospect pipeline.  “There are plenty of companies in this sector that we could be approaching and we will be approaching as North Carolina,” said Chung at the time.

Earlier this year, VinFast announced it would bring a $4 billion electric vehicle assembly plant along with a battery manufacturing facility to Chatham County, in what one Triangle leader called a “monumental” deal for the state’s economy and future.

“North Carolina’s state leadership is wholly committed to unlocking the economic development potential of the clean energy economy, and yesterday’s announcement validates North Carolina as the location of choice for innovative mobility companies like VinFast,” said Christopher Chung, chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said in a statement, following the announcement of the deal.