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Utilities Commission OKs Solar Rebates

CHARLOTTE — The North Carolina Utilities Commission has approved Duke Energy’s solar rebate program created to help North Carolina customers with the upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property.

Customers can start signing up for the $62 million solar rebate program this summer.

The program stems from a controversial renewable energy measure the North Carolina General Assembly passed last year.  House Bill 589 included a provision to encourage solar ownership in the state.

“It also allows Duke Energy to secure solar energy from independent facilities at a market rate – also a benefit for customers,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president.

Duke Energy noted that North Carolina ranks second in the nation for overall solar capacity, with more than 6,000 Duke Energy customers with private solar systems and a total capacity of more than 50 megawatts. The rebate program is expected to increase North Carolina’s private solar market by 200 percent over the next five years, providing an economic boost for the state’s solar installation business as well, the utility announced Thursday.

Under the program, residential customers will be eligible for a rebate of 60 cents per watt for solar energy systems 10 kilowatts or less. A typical rooftop array of 8 kW would be eligible for a $4,800 rebate. Installed systems 10 kW or greater would be eligible for a maximum rebate of $6,000.

Nonresidential customers would be eligible for 50 cents per watt. Nonprofit customers, such as churches and schools, would be eligible for a rebate of 75 cents per watt for systems 100 kW or less. Installed systems 100 kW or greater would be eligible for a maximum rebate of $50,000 for nonresidential customers or $75,000 for nonprofit customers.

Duke customers will also have a solar leasing option. Instead of owning the system, customers can lease solar panels from another company. Much like leasing a car, a third-party leasing agency owns the system while the customer has a contract to use the output of the solar panels.

Earlier this year, Duke Energy announced two other solar programs as a result of the law. The programs are awaiting approval from the commission.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.