North Carolinians' spending on renewable energy doubled last year and has grown 25-fold just in the past five years, according to state tax data. Whether you approve of green energy or not, that's a remarkable transformation for a state in which solar panels were virtually unknown until recent years.
N.C. Department of Revenue data show that interest in renewable upgrades blasted off after the state legislature passed an energy law in 2007. The law requires electric utilities to buy output from solar panels, wind turbines and other private renewable generators.
The revenue data tracks state tax credits claimed every year on renewable investments. The state's 35 percent tax credit is considered one of the most generous in in the nation. Combined with a 30 percent federal tax credit, it reduces the cost of renewable project by more than half.
In 2011, North Carolina residents and businesses claimed $11.3 million in tax credits for renewable property. Such projects typically include solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, geothermal and wind turbines.
The 2011 credits doubled the previous year's, which came to $5.3 million. The 2010 credits again doubled from the year before, or $2.7 million in 2009.
In 2007, the year the law was passed, tax credits were $440,137. The following year they increased five-fold, to $2.1 million.
That means the recession crimped renewable spending in the state, with 2009 being the only year that did not result in a major increase in spending on renewables. That's when credits increased from $2.1 million in 2008 to $2.7 million in 2009.
Actual spending is harder to track, because the credits can be taken over five years and don't necessarily reflect a purchase in any given year.
According to Department of Revenue data for 2011, a wide range of businesses invested in renewables. The lengthy roster includes Bank of America Corp., BB&T, Belk, Biscuitville, Clean Burn Fuels, Duke Energy, Evergreen Landscaping Services, GlaxoSmithKline Holdings, Hanes Brands, House of Raeford Farms, JDM Roofing Co., Metropolitan Life Insurance, New Dixie Oil Corp., Outer Banks Brewing, QVC, Scandius BioMedical, Triangle Service Center and We Tan U, among others.