Duke Energy customers in North Carolina will be able to get rebates of up to $6,000 each beginning this summer for installing solar panels on their homes. The four-year, $62 million rebate program was approved by state regulators last week. It's required under a 2017 state law designed to keep solar power growing in North Carolina.
Duke expects the rebates to boost home solar installations in North Carolina, which ranks number 2 nationwide for solar capacity.
"We think we can double the amount of rooftop solar in North Carolina," Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said. "Right now we have a little over 6,000 customers. So we think we can add more than 6,000 - might be closer to 10,000."
Solar in North Carolina grew quickly in part because of a state tax credit. But that expired in 2015. Wheeless said these rebates could help make up for the loss of the tax credit. There's also still a federal tax credit.
Homeowners can get rebates of 60 cents per watt, or $6,000, for solar systems of 10 kilowatts or less. A typical installation of 8 kilowatts would earn a rebate of $4,800.
Customers also have the option of leasing solar panels from another company.
Most solar installations are connected to Duke Energy's power network. If they generate more electricity than needed, it flows onto the network in exchange for credits on their bills. If the solar panels aren't generating electricity, customers use power from Duke.
The program also offers rebates to non-residential customers - up to $50,000 for businesses and up to $75,000 for nonprofit organizations.
There's a catch: Duke plans to spend $62 million on the program, and rebates will go way when that money runs out, in four years, according to Wheeless.
The rebate program is one of several renewable energy initiatives in the works at Duke after the passage of House Bill 589 last year.
Another is community solar, sometimes known as shared solar. That's a program for people who don't want or can't have solar panels on their own homes, but want access to solar-generated electricity. The program lets customers subscribe to a nearby community solar farm. State regulators are currently weighing whether to approve Duke's shared solar program.
Meanwhile, Duke also plans to revive a program it tried out previously, called Green Source Advantage. It allows large corporate or institutional customers to contract for solar power to offset what they buy from Duke. The company piloted the project in western NC until the trial expired a couple of years ago, announcing deals with big companies including Google's data center in Lenoir.
N.C. Utilities Commission ruling approving the solar rebate program, NCUC.net
Get more information or sign up for Duke Energy updates on the solar rebate program at Duke-Energy.com