Solar Energy in North Carolina

by Nicole Wilson, NC Clean Energy Technology Center
March 2020

Solar energy is growing throughout the United States. In 2018 alone, the solar industry generated a $17 billion investment in the economy.

North Carolina ranks an impressive second in the country for the amount of solar installed. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) says there are 12,667 installations in the state, and enough solar to power 676,000 homes. SEIA expects solar installations to grow across all market segments in 2020 and 2021 as prices drop, and total installed solar capacity will more than double over the next five years.

Does solar make sense for your home?

While North Carolina is a national leader in solar deployment, most of it has been large utility-scale applications instead of residential. However, as prices continually drop, technology improves, and more programs and incentives begin, solar is becoming more feasible.

"We haven't been as fast to adopt rooftop solar on individual buildings, but because of the price drops resulting from continuing large-scale deployment, we're seeing the price of rooftop solar installations fall as well, becoming more and more competitive and affordable in the marketplace," says Steve Kalland, executive director of the NC Clean Energy Technology Center. "The state has also made strides through programs like net metering, third-party leasing opportunities, and community solar, to give more people an opportunity to have solar on their home or at least to directly offset the energy in their bill."

The U.S. Department of Energy is working to reduce soft costs of solar, including labor, permitting, inspection and interconnection, supply chain, customer acquisition and other overhead costs. SEIA and The Solar Foundation have implemented the SolSmart program to address local barriers to solar energy and foster growth, as well as the Solar Automated Permit Processing, which attempts to reshape solar permitting at the federal, state and local levels. Community solar has helped boost the non-residential segment, providing homeowners, renters and businesses shared access.

"New technology is also coming into the market, which brings added value to rooftop installation by providing backup power and resiliency in regions of the state where significant storms and power interruptions happen periodically," Kalland says.

One of the more significant reasons to consider using solar is to reduce your electric bill. Benefits also include protection from rising utility costs, increase in home value, and reducing harmful emissions that affect health and the environment. North Carolina's environment and economy both benefit from investing in solar energy, as fossil fuels are finite and sunlight is an unlimited renewable source of energy.

The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70 percent in the past decade, and prices are at their lowest levels in history, SEIA says. The price of solar has declined 32 percent in North Carolina in the past five years.

As of November 2019, the average cost of a 5kW solar power system in North Carolina was $3.50/watt, Solar Estimate says. The average payback period is nine years and three months, and the average lifetime savings is $56,852. The 2019 out-of-pocket cost of a 5kW system in New Hanover County was between $12,750 and $17,250, with a net 20-year savings of $15,388-$20,819, and electricity bill offset of 58-79 percent, says Energy Sage.

Advantages of installing solar in North Carolina include the net metering policy and the strong sun exposure that makes the energy production higher than in some other states, says Solar Estimate. The federal government also offers an investment tax credit that allows homeowners and businesses to deduct 30 percent of solar costs from their taxes. Some utilities in the state offer net metering, where you can directly offset your energy use with solar production on your home and business.

Need Help calculating?

Go to for help to determine the cost of installing solar on your home.

Looking for a contractor? Reach out to Energy Sage at 

More information needed? The Database of State Incentives for Renewable & Efficiency has information on utility incentives, state and federal programs for renewables and efficiency, and more.

More incentives for North Carolina residents can be found at Energy Sage's website.

About the NC Clean Energy Technology Center

The NC Clean Energy Technology Center, part of the College of Engineering at North Carolina State University, advances a sustainable energy economy by educating, demonstrating and providing support for clean energy technologies, practices and policies. It serves as a resource for innovative, sustainable energy technologies through technology demonstration, technical assistance, outreach and training.


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