Report: Solar power makes more economic sense for N.C.

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If you wish North Carolina would hurry up and really support the production of cleaner energy, as opposed to giving lip service and little else, there’s hope — you now have a former Duke University chancellor, and his enlightening new report, on your side.  John O. Blackburn, who besides being chancellor also taught economics at Duke, published a report last week revealing that solar photovoltaic electricity in N.C. is now a little cheaper than new nuclear power, and is getting even cheaper by the day. Blackburn’s report recommends that the state change its energy policies to reflect these new economic facts.

The report, titled "Solar and Nuclear Costs — the Historic Crossover," shows that falling prices for producing solar electricity, and rising costs for building new nuclear plants, recently reached a crossover point at around 16 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh). Read a lengthier account of the report at NC WARN’s website, which also offers a link to the complete report.

Blackburn says the “crossover” is a “watershed moment” which makes it clear that N.C.'s energy costs will rise less with an increased use of solar photovoltaic energy than with new nukes. Blackburn’s report shows that commercial solar companies are offering electricity to Duke Energy and Progress Energy for 14 cents or less per kwh. The utilities, however, are rejecting or severely limiting the offers, while pressing forward with their plans for new nuclear plants, which would create electricity at a cost of 14-18 cents per kwh, according to the report.

Blackburn called on state government to get behind the solar industry, saying it could bring thousands of manufacturing and installation jobs to N.C. The problem, said Blackburn, is that the state’s utilities are obstructing state support for solar, putting us behind at least 20 other states that are embracing the solar industry. It’s an interesting report that should be required reading of every lawmaker and governor in the nation, not just N.C. legislators and Gov. Perdue.

As we’ve said before, it’s past time for all of us to get off the oil teat. While we’re at it, especially considering these new economic comparisons, let’s allow nuclear plants to fade into the sunset, too. Let your state reps how you feel about it.

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