North Carolina Solar Center Hopes to Spur Residential PV Growth with New Guide for Customers

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The North Carolina Solar Center publishes a guide to help Duke Energy residential customers understand the state’s PV solar market and see how much they might save by installing a PV system. The guide could become a blueprint to help spur residential adoption in other states.

Going solar can seem like a complicated process for homeowners — even when it comes to deciding whether it’s worth attempting in the first place. Now, North Carolina electric customers are getting some help. And what’s being offered there could provide a blueprint for other states.

The North Carolina Solar Center has published a guide to help residential customers understand the state’s PV solar market and determine if they can justify the initial cost. The report discusses the two Duke Energy markets and provides a full overview of what homeowners can expect when discussing PV with area installers.

 

The report covers multiple topics that are common in the PV solar discussions. These include average solar costs, financing options, available incentives, net metering programs, rate scheduling, NC Green Power participation, and common terms and definitions.

 

You can download the Duke Progress report here (for Duke Energy Progress residential customers) and the Duke Carolinas report here (for Duke Energy Carolinas residential customers).

 

The DOE-funded program is intended to promote the adoption of rooftop solar in North Carolina. And its reach could extend much further. If enough potential customers and sales representatives find the report useful, it will be applied to other states.

 

Readers of the report are guided through the basics of the solar decision-making process and are shown how much money is typically saved by installing a PV system. Initial costs that can be expected for the average residential customer are explained along with tax credit basics, effective system costs, and expected return on investment. In ideal cases, a payback of seven years is possible, but the importance of choosing the right combination of rate scheduling (how the utility charges for electricity) and PV repayment options is revealed in a series of tables.

 

While the guide is a static report that explains the solar landscape in a point in time, readers are also encouraged to use an online tool called PV Watts. This interactive calculator uses satellite imagery to estimate how much a system can produce based on house orientation and latitude.

 

Savings are shown based on monthly bills over the warranted life of the solar installation. Affecting savings are rate option, which solar program is chosen (flat rate versus time of use rate), initial cost of installation, and kW rating of hypothetical systems. Another major factor is whether net metering is chosen over the “buy-all, sell-all” arrangement offered by NC Green Power, which connects consumers with green energy and carbon-offset providers (note: net metering wins out over the nonprofit’s purchasing options in every scenario).

 

By the numbers:

 

  • On average, North Carolinians spend $117 on their electric bills.

  • PV costs have dropped by 50% in the past 3 years

  • State tax credits are 35% of total cost and typically yield $5,000 to $8,000*

  • Federal tax credits are 30% and reduce the PV system cost $4000 to $7000*

  • Installed systems usually cost between $5700 and $9400 in North Carolina*

  • Average monthly bill savings are around $55

  • Lifetime savings range from $7000 to over $11,000*

 

* based on a 4.1kW PV system, and estimated inflation rate of 2.03%

 

Because the report is new, its usefulness is still being evaluated. Readers are encouraged to send feedback to the NC Solar Center so future publications can be improved and developed for other markets across the country. The hope is that future publications in other areas can fuel the growth of the residential PV market.