Duke Energy’s solar rebate program approved in North Carolina

solar system rebate

Duke Energy’s $62 million solar rebate program – which will help North Carolina customers with the upfront cost of installing solar panels on their property – was approved this month by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). The program is part of 2017’s Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina law – also known as House Bill 589 – which includes new Duke Energy programs to benefit customers. Customers can start signing up this summer.

“The Competitive Energy Solutions law for North Carolina will encourage solar ownership for customers while we pursue a balanced and affordable energy mix for all customers,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “It also allows Duke Energy to secure solar energy from independent facilities at a market rate – also a benefit for customers.”

North Carolina is second in the nation for overall solar capacity. Currently, in North Carolina, Duke Energy has more than 6,000 customers who have private solar systems – with a total capacity of just over 50 megawatts. The program expects 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.

RELATED: Our big takeaway from SEIA’s latest Grid Modernization report: Utilities need to step up

“Duke Energy’s North Carolina customers have never had a better opportunity to take control of their energy future with solar than with this rebate program. We’re eager to work with those customers to take advantage of the incentive,” said Jay Radcliffe, CEO of Renu Energy Solutions of Charlotte. “The federal tax credit is still in place. In nearly a decade of installing solar, now is the best time I’ve seen for customers to save.”

Rebate Details

  • Under the program, residential customers will be 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 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 an enhanced 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.
  • Customers will also have a solar leasing option.

“We structured our program to give customers as much flexibility as possible to pursue renewable options,” added Fountain. “Of course, customers have to determine if solar energy fits their needs.”

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

• Shared Solar – Will allow customers to subscribe to the output of a nearby solar facility and provides an alternative for customers who do not want, or can’t have, a solar array on their property.

• Green Source Advantage – Will allow large customers to secure solar power to offset the amount of power purchased from Duke Energy. This is an expanded version of a pilot program Duke Energy Carolinas provided.

— Solar Builder magazine

Aurora Solar sales, design software now includes HD aerial images from Nearmap

nearmap

Aurora Solar, a solar sales and design software leader that was in our nine customer service products to watch, sent word that it is now partnering with Nearmap for a serious upgrade to its site image interface. Through this collaboration, Nearmap’s up-to-date, sub 3” GSD imagery is now available within Aurora’s software, helping solar installers design and sell with exact precision.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Nearmap to provide aerial imagery to solar installers across the country,” said Chris Hopper, CEO and co-founder of Aurora Solar. “By integrating high-resolution imagery with our industry-leading software, we empower solar installers to quote with confidence—reducing the number of truck rolls required. This is the next big step in remote solar design.”

Previously, Aurora has enabled its users to design over 1 million solar projects, with over 60,000 projects designed in March 2018 alone. Now, in addition to satellite imagery, Aurora customers can utilize high-resolution and current Nearmap imagery for increased accuracy and informed decision-making.

RELATED: How Momentum Solar doubled its business with aerial imaging software

“We’re excited to announce this relationship because it offers a lot of flexibility for both Nearmap and Aurora customers. The partnership offers solutions for businesses of all sizes. Organizations can choose from different licensing models: pay as you go, with unlimited access to imagery, or per bundle through Aurora, which provides a more flexible option based on the needs of the user,” said Patrick Quigley, EVP of Nearmap U.S. In addition, existing Nearmap customers can also authenticate their Nearmap licenses in Aurora.

Alex Chelius of Momentum Solar notes that this integration will “significantly increase our productivity as well as accuracy.”

Aurora Solar users now can …

• Reduce costly, time-intensive on-site visits with Nearmap aerial captures. The imagery’s detail enables professionals to measure and design from the comfort of an office with a precision that rivals traditional measuring methods.

• Enhance their shading analysis and remote system design processes by utilizing high definition images to better model sites.
• Increase the number of leads they nurture by spending less time on each lead. Aurora users are now able to expand their coverage area rapidly.

• Access Nearmap historical captures so users can visualize the property through all seasons.

“Every design begins with imagery, and high-quality imagery helps designers create permit-quality drawings and game-changing proposals,” said JT McCook, sales consultant at Aurora Solar. “That’s why this integration is so exciting; it allows solar installers to create highly accurate 3D models remotely.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Check out how these Sunflare solar panels blend into this standing seam roof

LIFE EDITED_MAUI_sunflare

Graham Hill, founder of the sustainability-focused media outlet TreeHugger and two-time TED presenter, launched a new compact, off-grid, low-impact showcase house in Maui on a shared lot. The project – LifeEdited Maui – aims to spread the concept of living big in a small house. He’s providing a glimpse of what life can look like in a sharing community with a multi-functional, beautiful and sustainable house.

The idea, Hill says, is that through smart design, technology and maybe a little behavior change, we can all create “smaller” and most importantly happier lives, all while saving money and reducing our environmental footprint.

The Maui project also provides an opportunity for clean lifestyle brands to show off their most innovative products. The star of the show is Sunflare solar, which provided 9kW of its lightweight, thin solar power for the standing seam metal roof on the 1,000 square foot home.

Sunflare’s panels were chosen because of their eco-friendly, energy-efficient manufacturing process and thin, flexible lightweight design. Sunflare manufacturing uses a scant 20% of the energy that silicon panels use from birth through transport to an installation site. The manufacturing process uses very little water, and that which is used is clean and can be reused. The spent materials are recycled. And the Sunflare panels don’t use glass, don’t need aluminum racking, and are just one quarter of the weight of a silicon panel all by themselves.

LIFE EDITED_sunflare solar

“We’re excited to work with Sunflare – it’s just a beautiful fit,” said Hill. “Sunflare has the cleanest environmental footprint of any of the solar panels out there. As a global citizen that’s the most important. And it’s thin, so it nestles right into the standing seam roof, so from an aesthetic point of view it’s great. Totally invisible. Installation is super easy too. It’s held secure with roofing adhesive. Genius.”

LifeEdited worked with the home’s metal roof manufacturer to pick a color that is very close, if not identical, to the color of the Sunflare panels so that the panels can “disappear” into the roof.

The panels work well in low light. The day the Sunflare team was there, the house had just hosted 4 days of a full house with hot showers and all. The battery was down to 12%, and Graham look a little worried, as the day was rainy. But by the time we finished taping a conversation with him, the battery had reached 25%.

The prototype home produces more energy and water than it consumes and incorporates innovative technologies and life-sustaining architectural designs. In addition to the solar power, he has included composting toilets and water catchment.

— Solar Builder magazine

Residential solar buying trends: Quality matters, storage interest increases

residential solar buying

At Bloomberg’s Future of Energy Summit in New York, EnergySage released its latest semiannual Solar Marketplace Intel Report. EnergySage’s report is based on millions of transaction-level data points generated within its Solar Marketplace, and serves as one of the country’s foremost leading indicators of the future of residential solar shopping.

This sixth and latest report features new datasets and analyses including complete visibility into the specific brands of solar panels most likely to drive sales on EnergySage, and what other energy-related products and services today’s solar shoppers are considering, such as the Tesla Powerwall home battery.

Here are three insights from the latest report.

Equipment quality, not lowest price, drives buying decisions

EnergySage reviewed the equipment that consumers chose most frequently on the Solar Marketplace. In 2017, the most successful quotes all included higher quality panels such as SunPower, LG and Panasonic. This reflects a broader trend seen throughout the report: prospective solar customers are compelled by offers that include quality products at the right price.

RELATED: How solar installers can build business through third-party programs

Three in four solar shoppers also considering energy storage

In 2017, 74% of solar shoppers who shared their non-solar energy interests with EnergySage stated they were also considering a home battery like the Tesla Powerwall. While this hasn’t yet translated into an equivalent sales volume, batteries present a massive new market opportunity for installers, manufacturers, lenders, and utilities to capitalize on in coming years.

Cost of solar continues to fall, the lowest prices seen to date

When EnergySage first started tracking the cost of solar offered to consumers in 2014, the national average was at $3.86 per watt. By the end of 2017, the national average had fallen to $3.13 per watt. In many parts of the country including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, average costs were below $3.00 per watt on EnergySage and as low as $2.00 per watt in some counties.

“Today’s residential solar consumers are opting to own their systems, and as our data shows, they’re prioritizing equipment quality and value over whatever is the cheapest option,” said EnergySage CEO and founder Vikram Aggarwal. “Our mission to make solar more accessible and affordable for Americans through transparency is allowing today’s solar shopper to find the right solutions at the right price.”

Additionally, EnergySage analyzed quotes submitted to Solar Marketplace shoppers in five different utility service territories. The report compared the cost of solar energy to today’s electricity rates in territories served by Green Mountain Power, Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Tampa Electric. Remarkably, in every utility service territory except for Puget Sound Energy, the cost of solar was at least 50% below the 2017 residential electricity rate offered by the utility, and often lower.

— Solar Builder magazine

Study shows PACE financing’s big impact in driving solar installations

PACE solar financing

A federally funded analysis by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) offers evidence that the home-improvement financing option known as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) has been “uniquely successful” as a driver of residential solar-power systems in California. Essentially, many of the systems installed via this financing vehicle simply could not have happened without it.

The study covered the years 2010-2015, when residential PACE programs such as Renovate America’s HERO financing were expanding rapidly across California. While previous studies demonstrated that early, regional PACE programs increased the deployment of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, this new analysis is the first to demonstrate these impacts from HERO and other large, statewide residential PACE (R-PACE) programs.

“Our estimates imply that the majority of PV deployment financed by R-PACE programs would likely not have occurred in the absence of the programs,” researchers Jeffrey Deason and Sean Murphy wrote. “These results suggest that R-PACE programs have increased PV deployment in California even in relatively recent years, as R-PACE programs have grown in market share and as alternate approaches for financing solar PV have developed.“

PACE programs like HERO empower homeowners to make energy and efficiency improvements to their homes and pay for them over time at a competitive, fixed interest rate through an additional, voluntary assessment on their property taxes.

“PACE was designed to encourage the adoption of more clean-energy technologies, and it’s encouraging to see evidence that these programs are really moving the needle when it comes to driving deployment of distributed solar PV and empowering homeowners to go solar,” said Renovate America CEO Roy Guthrie.

Since it launched in late 2011, HERO has financed the deployment of over 183 megawatts of residential solar capacity across over 30,000 homes – more than any other PACE provider. That’s equivalent to almost 5% of the total residential solar PV capacity installed across the territory covered by the three California investor-owned utilities (SDGE, PG&E, SCE). To put it another way, HERO has financed the installation of more PV capacity than exists in the following 14 states, combined (as reported by SEIA as of March 2018): Alaska, Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, both Dakotas, Rhode Island, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The LBNL analysis, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy
Efficiency and Renewable Energy – Building Technologies Office, noted that California’s residential PACE programs are worth studying because they have in many respects been “uniquely successful” among energy-efficiency and solar PV financing programs. California is the nation’s largest market for PACE financing.

The researchers also noted that California has identified PACE as one of the tools that will help it meet the energy-efficiency targets laid out in Senate Bill 350, the 2015 law that calls for the state to double energy-efficiency savings by 2050. They added that several states are considering an increasing focus on financing programs like PACE as opposed to utility rebates to drive deployment of energy efficiency.

— Solar Builder magazine