New economy meets old on eastern NC farms
Posted January 8, 2016
Dawson Singletary is the classic, old-time, eastern North Carolina farmer. He’s farmed his land near Bladenboro for 45 years. The fact that he now has a solar farm on 34 acres of it is something of a paradox. Singletary is part of our state’s traditional agricultural economy and heritage and the solar farm on his land is part of our state’s high tech economy and its future in renewable energy production.
It also represents the kind of turning point we’ve seen in North Carolina’s economy in recent decades as it has transitioned from traditional industries like tobacco, textiles and furniture to high tech industries producing everything from computer software to pharmaceuticals. Public policy pushed by Governor Jim Hunt and passed by the legislature in the 1970’s and 1980’s helped shepherd that transition into North Carolina’s 21st century economy.
In 2007 our state legislature had that same sort of vision when it came to the future of energy production. It required utilities like Duke Energy to produce 12.5% of its energy from renewables by 2021 and it gave a 30% tax credit to businesses and individuals for their solar energy investments. Both of those initiatives led to a solar energy boom in our state, ranking us second in the nation in new solar development and fourth in solar capacity. If that progress is to continue our legislature and Governor must continue to look forward and put policies in place that continue to fuel the growth of renewable energy production in our state. If there is any issue that should be free from partisan politics it’s the production of clean energy that’s good for both the economy and the environment.