Duke Energy is seeing strong demand for its solar rebate deal in North Carolina (16 MW so far)

Duke Energy solar rebate

Home with solar panels on the roof. The house is located in Chatham County, N.C.

Duke Energy’s North Carolina solar rebate program has attracted significant interest from customers, with more than 1,500 applying for the incentive to install private solar systems in the first few weeks of the program’s launch.

The rebate offering, which opened July 9 to all Duke Energy customers in the state, is part of a five-year, $62 million program designed to support customers who want to install solar systems at their homes or businesses.
As a result of the popularity of the program, there is a waiting list for the residential and nonresidential categories for 2018 capacity.

Due to the first-come, first-served application rule of the program, the company is seeking permission from the N.C. Utilities Commission (NCUC) to allow residential and nonresidential customers who installed systems between Jan. 1, 2018, and July 26, 2018, another opportunity to apply for the rebate program in 2019. There is still capacity left for nonprofit customers this year.

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About 16 megawatts of new solar capacity has been accepted for rebates – totaling about $9 million. Overall, up to 20 MW of new capacity is expected to be added each year during the five-year program. At the start of 2018, Duke Energy had about 5,000 customers with private solar in North Carolina, with a total capacity of about 50 MW.
Information for the rebate program can be found at: duke-energy.com/home/products/renewable-energy/nc-solar-rebates.

Solar rebate program

Under the program, residential customers are eligible for a rebate of 60 cents per watt for solar energy systems 10 kilowatts (kW) or less. For example, a typical rooftop array of 8 kW is eligible for a $4,800 rebate. Installed systems 10 kW or greater are eligible for a maximum rebate of $6,000.

Nonresidential customers are eligible for 50 cents per watt. Nonprofit customers (such as churches and schools) are eligible for an enhanced rebate of 75 cents per watt for systems 100 kW or less.

The rebates are divided into maximum annual allotments of 20 MW and are on a first-come, first-served basis – depending on when the customer application is submitted.

— Solar Builder magazine

Remote site assessment cuts solar design time, costs (about $850 per install)

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There are some solar installation costs we can’t control, such as the tariffs imposed on the industry this year. But when it comes to cutting soft costs, which now comprise more than half of the cost of a solar installation, installers have a valuable tool in their tool kits: remote site assessment and design. NREL has estimated that solar design software that supports remote shading analysis can save installers $0.17/W per 5-kW system (~$850 per install).

Samuel Adeyemo and Christopher Hopper experienced directly how time-consuming and laborious solar design can be when they partnered on a commercial solar installation to power a school in Kenya in 2012. Installing the system took only a few weeks, but designing the system from across the world required months of planning. After talking to other solar installers, Adeyemo and Hopper realized time-intensive solar design processes were a common struggle.

With the goal of providing a more efficient way to design solar projects while maintaining precision and accuracy, they set about building Aurora Solar in 2013. Today, tools like Aurora’s solar design software are modernizing the design process and offering significant benefits to installers that utilize them.

Save time, effort and money

One of the most tangible benefits of using solar design software is the time and money saved from reduced truck rolls. Traditionally, site visits have been an important step in the solar design and sales process, as a starting point for installers to accurately assess the shading on the roof and determine the appropriate PV system size.

When you or your team have to spend hours driving to prospective customers’ homes and businesses, climbing on the roofs and taking manual measurements, it can be costly—especially during the pre-sale stage. However, with software that enables you to get a detailed understanding of the project site as well as the solar access and shading, you can drastically reduce the need for costly site visits.

Residential installer Solarponics experienced this benefit firsthand. After switching to Aurora for their solar designs, the company has been able to reduce their pre-sale site visits by 90 percent while doubling installations and keeping their closing rate constant.

Improve sales with faster proposal turnaround times

Streamlining your solar design process through remote site assessment also offers important sales benefits. Being able to quickly send an accurate design and quote for a customer, rather than waiting on a site visit, can make a significant difference in closing the sale.

Hans Frederickson, owner of Cascadia Solar, learned this when a company used remote site assessment to close a deal with one of his prospective customers while he was completing his onsite assessment. Soon after that experience, Cascadia Solar switched to remote site assessment and now can send customers a quote within an hour of talking with them on the phone, their solar sales have doubled month over month and more than doubled year over year.

Having a more efficient assessment and design process also makes it possible to pursue leads that might previously have been too costly. “It used to be that proposals were so time-consuming that I would focus on carefully qualifying each lead, but Aurora has allowed us to respond in a much more effective way to every solar lead we get,” says Frederickson.

Bankable accuracy

Of course, in order for remote site assessment to truly be valuable, your solar design, production and bill savings estimates must be accurate and precise to avoid change orders down the line. Thankfully, with the application of cutting edge technologies, remote solar design tools like Aurora offer accuracy that companies can be confident putting their name behind. NREL has validated the accuracy of both Aurora’s performance simulations and its remote shading analysis, which was found to be statistically equivalent to onsite measurements.

Rebate authorities around the country, such as CT Green Bank, NYSERDA, and the Energy Trust of Oregon, accept Aurora’s remote shade reports as an acceptable replacement for time-consuming and costly onsite inspections previously required when applying for rebates.

Data on change orders: Cost and prevalence

Aurora aims to give installers the tools to design and sell better solar, including reducing errors that lead to change orders. Recognizing that there is limited data on the prevalence and cost of change orders in the industry, Aurora surveyed solar professionals about the impact of change orders in a recent webinar. Download our data on change order cost and prevalence to see how your experience stacks up against others in the industry.

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunnova starts offering SunSafe solar, storage service across Massachusetts

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Sunnova Energy Corporation has begun offering its Sunnova SunSafe solar energy generation and home battery storage service through its network of partners to homeowners across Massachusetts. Sunnova offers a broad and comprehensive solar portfolio in Massachusetts and will now be offering Sunnova SunSafe complete with its 25-year warranty, performance guarantee and intelligent control, all with zero money down.

“What we see in Massachusetts is an opportunity to better serve the energy needs of homeowners with a smart, clean and resilient energy technology through our local network of installation partners,” said William J. (John) Berger, CEO of Sunnova Energy Corporation. “As storms increase in frequency and severity, Sunnova SunSafe™ allows homeowners to rest easy knowing that they’ll have power to energize their lives when the grid goes down.”

“After a 2018 winter season that left Massachusetts homeowners dealing with Nor’easters, Atlantic cyclones, flooding, freezing temperatures and frequent power outages, we’re glad to be offering Sunnova SunSafeTM to power our customers’ homes with solar power, day and night,” said Kris Hillstrand, Executive Vice President of Technology and Service Operations with Sunnova Energy Corporation. “Our solar + battery storage offering will provide homeowners in Massachusetts with the opportunity to draw stored solar energy from their battery to power electricity needs, protecting their families from outages or even high electricity rates to maximize savings.”

In case of a utility power outage, the Sunnova SunSafe automatically detects when to switch from solar energy to stored energy, and Sunnova SunSafe will continue producing and storing back-up energy when the electric grid goes down, giving homeowners peace of mind and significantly reducing the homeowner’s reliance upon the grid.

When it comes to making a decision about a solar energy provider, Sunnova protects each customer’s solar + battery storage system for 25 years with its Sunnova Protect warranty. From repairs to maintenance, plus 24/7 system’s monitoring and performance, customers are covered every step of the way – from the day the system is turned on through the full term of the agreement.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fight fake solar? That’s what the Solar Consumer Protection Agency says its doing

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A new group called the Solar Consumer Protection Agency (SCPA) formed in partnership with affiliate solar companies to launch a new national campaign it’s calling “Fight Fake Solar,” the purpose of which is to expose deceptive companies within the solar industry and protect homeowners. The SCPA is looking to bring forth major improvements and set standards that all companies need to meet and follow before they can move forward with a sale and installation of a solar system.

Some of the main issues the SCPA highlights includes companies making false guarantees, purposely installing undersized systems, and knowingly signing unbuildable systems, leaving customers in limbo for years. Companies also increase payments with vague understanding from the homeowner or install a completely different system than was originally agreed upon.

The SCPA with the help of their affiliate network has created a national database of homeowners who have already been victims of misinformation and deceit from solar companies.

“Solar is a good thing. Its purpose is to help reduce our carbon footprint, while at the same time save people money. People are trapped for 25 years in a contract with something they didn’t agree to or that works properly. They can’t just take it off their roof and how are they going to sell their homes? It’s very unfair,” says Josh VanDusky, Co-Founder of SCPA.

The SCPA says it is currently looking to build partnerships with companies who share their belief in helping homeowners go solar with full transparency. They are looking to offer certified options for homeowners. The Solar Consumer Protection Agency audits proposals and contracts then will fully disclose all information to the homeowner to make a choice.

— Solar Builder magazine

GTM: Future of smart homes tied to voice automation devices, grid response

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Smart thermostats, connected lighting and electric water heaters offer customers greater awareness and control of their energy consumption. These devices are part of a broader landscape of home energy management technologies. By 2023, 28 percent of U.S. households will deploy smart thermostats; 36 percent will have at least one voice assistant device and use the device as a smart home control platform. GTM Research estimates home energy management technologies will result in $24 billion in hardware sales to market players from 2016 to 2023, in a recent report, “Energy Management in the Connected Home.”

As with the transformation of connected utility distribution equipment, connected home technologies have two-way communication capabilities which enable them to collect data on electricity consumption and be more integrated with grid operations – differentiating them from energy efficiency upgrades and one-way demand response controls that offered limited visibility and control capabilities.

The report indicates that although the home energy management landscape is comprised of a wide variety of technologies with different capabilities, connected devices are at the center of automating and orienting the home to become an asset to the energy system.

RELATED:  The Holistic Home: We peer into the future of home energy generation, usage

To-date increasing interactivity of the home has been driven by safety, comfort and convenience, not energy savings. “It’s recognized by both customers and utilities that customers only think about energy savings when their energy bill is a significant portion of their spending,” said Fei Wang, Senior Grid Edge Analyst and author of the report. “The savings potential is so small that it is hard to sustain customer engagement.”
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This is evident in the explosion of voice assistant devices sold in 2017. These devices have been sold largely as tools to enable hands-free information and audio services to enhance customer convenience, but they are also becoming the human interface or even the brain of the smart home, wrote Wang in the report. Google and Amazon are among the most well-known players in voice assistance, and GTM Research estimates that there will be 129 million of these devices deployed by 2023, making it a key technology for the home energy market. Technologies that are more exclusively focused on energy management, such as smart thermostats and smart lighting are projected to experience more conservative growth.

The smart home arena attracts players from various channels; and partnerships form across channels. Internet service providers and security companies are working to expand their relationship with American consumers by expanding into energy management offerings. Many companies are forming partnerships to build out a portfolio of services that is attractive to consumers. The report includes several case studies highlighting notable projects.

A seamless customer experience will be a competitive advantage in this market, noted Wang. “Automation and reducing prompts to react to grid events are key to keeping customers engaged and preventing customer fatigue,” said Wang. Automation will allow connected devices to participate fluidly with demand flexibility programs without active customer acknowledgement while ensuring customer comfort.

— Solar Builder magazine