Editorial: North Carolina Solar Energy Defies All Odds
North Carolina is becoming a national leader in solar electricity production despite the obstacles that it is currently facing. Suitable lands for solar farms are becoming scares and lawmakers continue to fight against it. Nonetheless, solar energy becoming cheaper to produce and are becoming more efficient. With time, solar electricity may become the main source of power.
Wasn't it yesterday that we were calling solar power the energy supply of the future? And suddenly, today is the future - or very nearly so.
Energy experts say North Carolina is moving close to "peak solar," the point of maximum solar-electric development.
As we've seen in this region, solar farms are already covering thousands of acres of what was largely unproductive farmland. This state ranks third in the nation in solar electricity production. Total solar output in North Carolina tops 2,000 megawatts - as much as two nuclear-power plants.
Despite all that success, it looks as if there will be a slowdown in solar development in the next three to five years. The problem is twofold: We're running out of suitable land for solar farms and many of Duke Energy's rural substations around the solar farms are nearing their maximum load and can't handle much more electricity. Adding capacity to those substations would be an expensive proposition and not one that utilities - primarily Duke Energy - are ready to tackle just yet.
And it appears that the missing link in solar power - storage to maintain power when the sun isn't shining - will be coming along in a few years as innovative battery technology develops.