Why solar farms are booming in North Carolina

Why North Carolina has so many solar farms

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here's something we found interesting:

This week, SNL Financial put out this map, showing where farms of solar panels are showing up. As you can see, North Carolina is exploding with solar, more so than any other neighboring state. We rank third in the nation when it comes to the amount of solar power that's on the state's grid. Largely because Duke Energy had to solve a problem.

A state law says that in the year 2020, one eighth of all of the power Duke Energy makes has to come from renewable energy. Right now, it mostly comes from coal.

So to get there-- Duke has largely turned to Solar power for two reasons:

  1. The federal tax credits are really good (30%) and so are the state tax credits (35%). "North Carolina has one of the best incentives in the country," Chris Verner of Accelerate Solar told us in May, "and by far one of the best incentives for large scales arrays."
  2. The price of solar panels has come way down in recent years.

Hence, solar farms are popping up everywhere in North Carolina (Most recently, in Kings Mountain and Hickory in our area) and earlier this year, Duke Energy it would invest a half billion dollars into solar in North Carolina.

"We're still going to need other forms of energy. Coal, natural gas, nuclear," Duke's Randy Wheeler told NBC Charlotte in September. "But there's no reason solar can't be a growing part of that."

But here's the thing-- That state tax credit is going to expire at the end of next year, and the federal credit is set to drop down to 10% at the end of 2016. Another chart from SNL Financial shows the amount of people willing to invest in solar drops way off after 2016.

I talked to the folks at Strata Solar in Chapel Hill. They've built 70 solar farms since 2011, and sell a lot of that power to Duke. They say that even if the credits go away-- they think they'll still be in good shape. Duke still needs the renewable energy, and the amount Duke pays Strata for it is fixed by the state. That's supposed to keep rates from going up.

So in the end, cheap panels, state rules and tax credits mean you'll continue to see a lot solar farms around the state.

So, why aren't more homes adding solar panels to their roofs in North Carolina? Blame cheap power. The video below explains why:


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