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June 24, 2013

Celebrating Solar Power in North Carolina

NC solar month signing
Joining North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (center) for the "Solar Month" desigation: (L to R) Kevin Stallings, member of the Capital Group of the North Carolina Sierra Club; Kris Thornburg of the Energy Foundation staff; Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, Sierra Club North Carolina communications director; Leilani Münter, North Carolinian, race car driver, activist, Sierra Club volunteer; Melissa Lomax, member of the Capital Group of Sierra Club North Carolina; and Molly Diggins, state director of Sierra Club North Carolina.

With all the controversial climate and clean energy legislation in North Carolina in the past year, one might be surprised to hear that the state ranks fifth in the U.S. in the amount of solar power installed in the first quarter of 2013.

North Carolina is truly leading the way in the South when it comes to solar power, and so we were thrilled when the North Carolina Sierra Club was invited to celebrate with North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory earlier this month when he declared June "Solar Energy Month." This came in response to the state chapter requesting this proclamation earlier this year.

"With leadership and supportive policies, our state is poised to become a national leader in solar energy," said Molly Diggins, state director of the North Carolina Sierra Club.

And look how well they're doing so far: Of the 30 utility-scale solar projects that were built in the Southeast in 2012, 21 were in North Carolina. That is more individual projects than in any other state in the U.S. The clean energy industry employs more than 15,000 people in the state.

All through June, Sierra Club North Carolina has been holding "First In Solar" events, from solar installation tours to educational meetings. Thousands of residents are hearing about the jobs, investment, and innovation that the solar industry has brought to the state.
NC solar farm tour

At one event on a recent Saturday, more than 30 people toured Ray's Family Farm in Louisburg, North Carolina. The tour was led by the farm's Chad Ray, who discussed how solar can complement the agriculture industry and provide families and farmers with more opportunities to stay competitive and grow their businesses (that's Chad showing off the barn's solar panels in the above photo).

I'm excited to see North Carolinians standing up for clean energy, even in a legislative climate that has not been friendly to the issue in the past year. These residents - and millions of Americans nationwide - known that we cannot continue to burn coal for power. We can't accept the massive climate-warming pollution that comes from coal. We can't accept the tremendous air and water pollution that comes from coal.

North Carolina is home to many coal plants and some serious potential coal ash contamination. Residents are seeing that clean energy can bring the jobs, power their homes, and boost their economy -- all without harming our air, water, or climate.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Beyond Coal Director

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