PEOPLE | CULTURE | HAPPENINGS
What it is, where it’s headed – and is it for you?
Solar Energy in North Carolina
By NICOLE WILSON, NC CLEAN ENERGY TECHNOLOGY CENTER
Photography by CAPE FEAR SOLAR SYSTEMS
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 coun-try
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 build-ings,
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 opportuni-ties,
and community solar, to give more people an opportunity to
have solar on their home or at least to directly offset the energy in
The U.S. Department of Energy is working to reduce soft costs
of solar, including labor, permitting, inspection and interconnec-tion,
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
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 sys-tem
in North Carolina was $3.50/watt, Solar Estimate says. The aver-age
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 sys-tem
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.
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.
WBM march 2020