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ARTICLE: 'It sort of exploded': the rapid rise of solar energy in North Carolina

Solar Energy production growth in North Carolina is among the fastest in the country, according to an environment North Carolina report, and it shows no signs of slowing down. 

The report ranked North Carolina as third in the nation for solar electricity production growth between 2008 and 2017, behind Arizona and California. In 2008, North Carolina's solar electricity production was 7 GWh. By 2017, it increased to 5,783 GWh. Although once a small market in the state, countless solar energy companies have moved in and made North Carolina one of the biggest solar energy leaders int he nation. 

This growth arose from a combination of the expansion of companies like the Triangle-based Strata Solar, a variety of government factors and market forces that led to a state-wide explosion of solar energy production.

Brian O'Hara, senior vice president of strategy and government affairs at Strata Solar, said it was Strata that first used PURPA to put North Carolina on the map for solar in the United States back in 2010.

"At the time, there were a number of policies and incentives in place that helped kickstart that industry, but it was really Strata that cracked the code to figure out how to make the economics work for utility-scale solar," he said.

O'Hara said the strategy implemented by Strata involved using North Carolina's state-specific implementation of PURPA to make solar economically feasible in the state. 

"Once they figured it out, it was off to the races in North Carolina," O'Hara said. "Other companies came in, replicated that model, and that's really what drove the growth of the industry for a number of years."

The next step for North Carolina's solar industry is tackling energy storage, according to O'Hara, and Strata Solar is already well-engaged in the energy storage business.

"I'd say battery storage is today where solar was 10 years ago," he said. 

Read the full article from The Daily Tar Heel.

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