Report says North Carolina solar is strong, but growth is slowing

CHARLOTTE — A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association ranks North Carolina fourth in the nation for solar installations, but ninth when it comes to new growth this year.

Abigail Ross Hopper, the president and CEO of the SEIA, attributes this to a number of factors, including lower costs and tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act spurring states that hadn’t historically invested in solar to ramp up installations.

She also expects net metering changes that will mean less savings for new residential solar customers will also mean fewer North Carolina homeowners and businesses invest in the coming years.

“Anything that slows down that market I would be wary of,” she said.

Across the country however, the report shows the solar outlook is bright. Solar accounted for 48 percent of energy-generating technology added to the U.S. power grid this year, far outpacing other forms of renewable energy. On top of that, 2023 is on track to be the country’s largest year for solar installations by far.

“That means when residents, utilities are choosing what to build they choose solar because it makes the most economic sense,” Ross Hopper said.

As the solar policy landscape changes however, and states like North Carolina move towards time-of-use utility rates, Ross Hopper expects solar battery storage to grow at the residential and utility level, allowing solar customers to keep their energy in-house until they need it, rather than selling it back to the grid.

“We see more and more customers and more and more businesses choosing that because of the frequency of outages and because of what’s at stake,” she said.

At the utility scale, currently, the maximum storage time for a solar battery is four hours, not enough time to last from sundown until sunup. Ross Hopper however, believes it can be a major help, if used at the right time to help handle early morning energy peaking.

As North Carolina works to meet its carbon reduction goals in the energy sector, reducing emissions by 70 percent by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, Duke Energy aims to add 6,000 MW of solar and 2,700 MG of storage capacity in the next eight years.

(WATCH: NC Supreme Court rules HOAs can’t ban solar panels, but can say where they go)

Michelle Alfini

Michelle Alfini, wsoctv.com

Michelle is a climate reporter for Channel 9.