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May 1, 2015 | How to Keep Solar’s Momentum in North Carolina

When you talk to most solar industry experts about which states are up-and-coming markets, you will often get a variety of answers. But one state all the experts seem to see as the next big solar market is North Carolina. Consider:

– The state has more than 161 solar companies operating within its borders, employing 3,100 people.

– In 2013, $787 million was invested in North Carolina to install solar for home, business and utility use — a 156% increase over the previous year.

– North Carolina installed the third-highest MW of solar in 2013, and has the fourth most installed solar overall in the country.

What has sparked this growth is twofold:

First, the state offers a 35% tax credit for solar installations. Second, it’s inexpensive and cost-effective to work in North Carolina, given that appropriate land is readily available and the regulatory environment makes it easier to work there.

But the explosive growth could slow considerably by the end of 2015 because the tax credit is expected to expire. We believe that all is not lost, however. Here are four scenarios we believe could keep solar moving forward, along with the probability it will happen (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being no chance and 10 being no doubt):

  1. The legislature comes to its senses and extends the tax credit, either at its current or reduced rate: 0.5
  1. The legislature creates a new ratepayer-based incentive program for solar installations, much like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) already does in the western part of the state: 3 
  1. The citizens of the state rise up and put a solar subsidy issue on the statewide ballot, which gets passed overwhelmingly and saves the industry: 7
  1. The 161 companies unite to send one message about how many jobs are related to solar in the state and show convincing evidence of the economic impact on each legislator’s district: 8

 

It’s inconceivable that North Carolina would deliberately sabotage its biggest growth industry by scuttling the public policy that helped create it.

We believe some version of the tax credit will stay in place as the local — and national — industry step in and work out a compromise to keep solar’s inevitable progress going in the state.