North Carolina has long been one of the top states for solar thanks to its utility-scale solar farms, but over the past few years, homeowners in the Tar Heel State haven’t seen many financial incentives to go solar. A newly-announced solar rebate from Duke Energy will help property owners in North Carolina save thousands on their up-front solar installation costs.
Currently, North Carolina residents with solar can save on their costs with the 30 percent federal solar tax credit, and many of the largest utilities also offer net metering. Prior to the start of 2016, the state also offered a tax credit for up to 35 percent of the cost of going solar. Once this tax credit expired, however, the economics for going solar in North Carolina changed, and in 2017 most solar system owners broke even in eight to 12 years.
Thanks to the new Duke Energy solar rebate, coming in 2018, many property owners in North Carolina will start to see quicker payback and greater savings over the lifetime of their solar panel system.
Origin of the new Duke Energy solar rebate
In the summer of 2017, the General Assembly and Governor Roy Cooper passed a law called Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina Law, also known as H.B. 589. The bill was designed to encourage the development and use of renewables in the state, which also creates jobs in these industries.
This bill offers a few major benefits to the solar industry in North Carolina. One is the creation of a solar leasing/PPA program, which was previously not legal in the state. Leases and PPAs make it easier for property owners who don’t want to buy a system to benefit from solar savings.
The bill also mandates the development of a community solar program. Community solar is an alternative to rooftop solar for those who can’t, or don’t want to, install solar on their property. Under this law, customers will be able to subscribe to receive a certain about of solar electricity produced by community solar farms.
Finally, this bill lays out the framework for a solar rebate program to Duke Energy customers, both in Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress territories. The solar rebates will help solar customers reduce the cost of installation – crucial to a growing industry.
Duke Energy solar rebates in North Carolina
Duke Energy serves roughly 7.5 million customers between its service territories, and 3.2 million of those customers are in North Carolina. Soon, these customers will be eligible for solar rebates to help decrease the upfront investment for a solar panel system.
Earlier this month, Duke rolled out their plan for their new solar rebate program, which they hope to be finalized later this year after approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The proposed rebate amount depends on the size of the solar panel system, and whether the customer is residential or non-residential.
- Residential customers: Homeowners going solar would be eligible to receive $0.60 per watt installed for systems under 10 kilowatts (kW). For systems larger than this, homeowners are only able to claim the rebate for up to 10 kW (which is equivalent to a $6,000 maximum).
- Nonresidential customers: Businesses and other non-residential customers would receive a proposed rebate amount of $0.50 per watt up to 100 kW, for a maximum total of $50,000.
- Nonprofit customers: Nonprofits will benefit the most from the rebate. They are eligible for a proposed rebate amount of $0.75 a watt up to 100 kW as well (or, a max of $75,000).
What sort of savings could this mean for property owners looking to install a solar panel system in Duke territory? Below is a table with some examples to show what this rebate would mean for savings for various types of systems:
|Customer type||System size||Rebate amount and additional upfront savings|
|Residential||6 kW||$3,600 ($0.60 x 6,000 W)|
|Residential||11 kW (rebate only applicable for first 10 kW)||$6,000 ($0.60 x 10,000 W)|
|Nonprofit||45 kW||$33,750 ($0.75 x 45,000 W)|
|Commercial||78.6 kW||$39,300 ($0.50 x 78,600 W)|
|Commercial||150 kW (rebate only applicable for first 100 kW)||$50,000 ($0.50 x 100,000 W)|
The incentive is also capped at 10,000 kW of installed capacity for each year of the incentive (from 2018 until 2022). Nonresidential installations can only account for a max of 5,000 kW of this total to make sure some of the funds are reserved for homeowners looking to go solar. 2,500 kW of the nonresidential property incentives are set aside for nonprofit organizations. If the funds for a particular year aren’t fully used, the utility has the option to roll over the excess incentive amounts to the next year.
Other solar programs from Duke Energy
Duke also plans to roll out more programs this year to help benefit solar customers, including the implementation of their community solar option (also known as the Shared Solar project) to benefit homeowners that want to go solar but can’t or don’t want to install solar on their own roof. This is a good solution for properties unsuitable for solar (like those with shaded roofs, for example) or renters who don’t own their home but still want to use solar energy.
Duke also have plans to expand their Green Source Advantage program, which allows customers to use renewable power through their utility bill. This program was designed and geared for servicing customers with larger energy needs than the common property (for example, college campuses, manufacturing plants, etc.)
In addition to these programs and rebates available, property owners will also still be able to take advantage of Duke Energy’s net metering, in which Duke Energy buys back excess power produced by the solar panel systems and allows customers with excess solar production to receive bill credits to use in the future.
Securing North Carolina’s spot as a top solar state
Assuming the rebates are approved, North Carolina will be able to boast as a top state for solar, and not just for solar developers. These rebates would help decrease the upfront investment necessary for owning a solar panel system, and Duke projects that these new incentives and programs could increase the state’s private solar market by 200 percent over the next five years.
Given these recent advancements, there’s no better time to start your solar shopping process. By registering on EnergySage, you can receive multiple quotes from pre-screened and vetted installers in the state. These quotes will include savings projections and payback periods that will take current incentives into account (and can be updated once the rebate is finalized and approved!) If you’d like to start your solar exploration with a quick estimate of costs and savings, try using our Solar Calculator.