The United States is in the midst of an unprecedented solar boom, but it could become a global pariah if it doesn’t start building solar power plants quickly, a top U.S. electric utility executive said Tuesday.
“We have to be able to get our hands on the most efficient solar power that we can, and I think we’ve got to be a leader in this,” Duke Energy President and CEO Richard L. Anderson said at a solar conference in Los Angeles.
“This is an opportunity that is very, very exciting,” he added.
“You’ve got some pretty cool technology right now, and you’ve got a lot of very, really exciting companies who are working on this technology.”
Duke Energy, which is one of the largest U.N.-sanctioned utilities, is one company that has invested heavily in solar technology and is one among a number of utilities investing billions of dollars in solar projects.
The company has invested in several solar power projects in recent years, including one recently completed in South Carolina that will be the largest solar power project ever built.
The Duke Energy solar project in South Charleston is expected to create nearly 1,000 new jobs, according to a company statement.
It is part of a broader $1.6 billion investment in solar power at Duke Energy in 2017.
Anderson, who is also a professor of engineering at Duke University, said he was pleased to see Duke Energy move forward with a plan to build a 100 megawatt solar power station in South Texas that will generate 100 percent of its electricity from solar energy.
“If you look at our capacity at solar, that’s a very big deal,” Anderson said.
“It’s a big jump up from coal, and it’s not just a small jump.”
Dale Sorenson, Duke Energy’s executive vice president for public policy, said in a statement that the project will generate $50 million in annual economic benefits and $3 million in additional federal revenue.
“Duke is the first U.A.E. utility to commit to solar projects and is also the first in the country to build one of these facilities,” Sorensson said.
He added that the Duke project will create approximately 1,400 jobs in South Austin, a city of about 13,000.
The Texas solar industry has grown exponentially in recent decades, and its expansion is expected in the next five years.
In 2018, Texas generated about $16 billion in solar revenue, according the American Solar Energy Association.