Why aren't more North Carolinians putting solar panels on their homes?

Why aren't more North Carolinians putting solar panels on their homes?

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by JEREMY MARKOVICH / NBC Charlotte

WCNC.com

Posted on May 14, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Updated Thursday, May 15 at 1:51 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Chris Verner points up to a sheet of solar panels that sits over a driveway.

"This is the Lumos Solarscape," he says. "It has 24 bi-facial glass on glass modules."

That's a complex way of saying a couple in Plaza Midwood bought a carport with a lot of solar panels on it.

"This powers the whole house, about 2,500 square feet," he says. "It covers all of their electrical needs."

Verner and Accelerate Solar built the whole thing for $30,000. But thanks to federal and state tax credits, the actual cost, is only about $10,000.

North Carolina's tax credits for solar are among the best in the country. You can see that from a chart from the Solar Energy Industries Association. North Carolina ranks third when it comes to adding solar power:

But take a closer look. The green represents utilities like Duke Energy and companies that sell electricity wholesale to Duke and others. The blue represents homes, and as you can see, it's nowhere to be found. So why not?

"Commercial investors can get a quicker return than a residential end user can get," says Verner.

In North Carolina, the bigger the solar farm, the more you save. 

"North Carolina has one of the best incentives in the country, and by far one of the best incentives for large scales arrays," he says.

The other thing: Power here is relatively cheap, so not as many people are looking for alternatives to the power company:

In California, electricity is about 50-percent more expensive. In New York, it costs twice as much as it does in North Carolina. In Hawaii, almost four times as much as it does here. In the first chart, you can see a lot of people are adding solar panels to their homes in Hawaii and California, much more than in North Carolina.

Nationwide, people are also adding more solar power because the price of installing it is coming way down. The solar panel carport in Plaza Midwood will pay for itself in about six or seven years. And the power meter attached to it does something yours probably can't -- run backward. The house puts excess power back out on to the grid, and Duke Energy gives the homeowners a credit.

Bottom line, if you're trying to sell the idea of solar, going green is nice. But showing people that they'll save money, and save it more quickly, appears to be what's sealing the deal.

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