The report also shows North Carolina’s most rural, economically challenged communities benefit the most from clean energy development. In particular, Duplin, Robeson, and Catawba counties have each experienced between $300 million and $750 million in clean energy project investments since 2007.
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“Competitive energy policy is extremely important in North Carolina’s monopoly controlled electricity market,” said NCSEA communications manager, Allison Eckley. “Thanks to policies, such as the REPS, investments made in renewable energy projects in 2016 were 127 times larger than those made in 2007. These investments continue to provide economic opportunities across the state.”
Notably, the state’s first utility-scale wind project built by Avangrid Renewables, the Amazon U.S. East Wind project near Elizabeth City, represented $388.2 million in direct investment and is now the largest taxpayer in both Perquimans and Pasquotank counties. It is expected to inject $1.1 million into the local economy annually.
“The Amazon wind project has raised the visibility of Elizabeth City and the surrounding areas, and piqued interest for future development,” said Wayne Harris, economic developer for Elizabeth City and Pasquotank County. “During construction, we saw approximately $18 million dollars spent by the developer, and collected sales tax for Perquimans and Pasquotank Counties increased by 20 and 10 percent, respectively,” he continued.
Of note, the 2017 RTI report shows wind energy now accounts for 5 percent (an estimated $388.9 million) of all renewable energy investments made since 2007, while solar and bioenergy account for 82 and 8 percent. Ranked No. 2 nationally for solar energy industry growth in the past decade, North Carolina’s clean energy economy is increasingly diverse and positively impacting all 100 counties.
The RTI report also identified the complementary relationship between clean energy development and North Carolina’s rich rural agricultural heritage. In the last decade, 88 percent of renewable energy investments have been made in mostly rural, Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties.
"We have seen substantial growth in the clean energy industry in the past ten years, and with this growth, our state has seen thousands of new jobs, billions of dollars in direct economic impact, and lower energy bills for all," said Gary Lanier, Director of the Columbus County Economic Development Commission and Columbus County Planning Department.
"Clean energy is a common sense solution for growing our state's economy, especially in some of our most economically distressed areas. As an economic developer, I have personally seen the impact clean energy has made in my county, especially for local farm families seeking to diversify their income and reduce their financial risks. I hope our state seizes opportunities to continue to grow this sector."
Renewable energy, including solar and wind energy projects, are continuing to benefit land owners in the form of lease payments– while supporting jobs, local investments and long-standing, reliable infrastructure for our communities for all North Carolinians. There are many examples of multi-generation farmers who are leasing a portion of their land for clean energy projects while continuing to grow crops under or nearby the projects, allowing sheep to graze under the solar panels, adding bees or pollinator-attracting ground cover, or other ways these projects and agriculture can coexist harmoniously.
The 2017 RTI full report, including summary findings, a digital sharing suite and a complete appendix detailing the economic impact and activity occurring in all 100 counties, is available via the NC Sustainable Energy Association.
RTI International is one of the world’s leading independent nonprofit research institutes. Based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, RTI has a mission to improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice. Founded in 1958 with the guidance of government, education, and business leaders in North Carolina, RTI was the first tenant of Research Triangle Park. Today we have nine offices in the United States and nine in international locations. We employ over 2,300 staff in North Carolina, 500 across the United States, and over 900 worldwide. RTI performs independent and objective analysis for governments and businesses in more than 75 countries in the areas of energy and the environment, health and pharmaceuticals, education and training, surveys and statistics, advanced technology, international development, economic and social policy, and laboratory testing and chemical analysis. In 2015, RTI’s revenue was $831.5 million.
The NC Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) is a recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to shaping North Carolina’s clean energy future through commonsense policy solutions that enable clean energy jobs, business opportunities and affordable energy to strengthen the state’s position as a leader in the new energy economy.
Engaging its deep ties with members, government officials, North Carolina communities and industry partners, NCSEA leads policy change that motivate sustainable market development while educating North Carolinians about the impacts of abundant and accessible clean energy.
NCSEA has served as a respected, trusted and collaborative resource to North Carolina and beyond driving some of the most successful policies across all energy sectors since 1978. NCSEA is also a member of the American Solar Energy Society and the Advanced Energy Economy.
For regular updates, please visit NCESA online at energync.org and follow NCSEA on Facebook , LinkedIn and Twitter.