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Here are some of the other stories catching our attention.

Duke Energy Proposes Rebates To Spur Rooftop Solar

Rebates would help pay for solar panels on a rooftop
Elliot Brown
Rebates would help pay for solar panels on a rooftop

Duke Energy has proposed a new solar rebate program for homeowners and small businesses in North Carolina - something required as part of the state's new renewable energy law that took effect Jan. 1. 

Duke says about 6,000 customers currently have solar panels on their roofs around the state. Spokesman Randy Wheeless said the company believes that could triple over the next five years with the rebates.

"This will help customers, industrial even commercial customers put solar on the rooftop. Get a rebate from the company to do that. We think it's going to spur more solar in North Carolina, especially at the residential level," he said. 

Duke proposes a rebate of 60 cents per watt of generating capacity for a typical household solar installation, or up to $6,000. Small businesses could get more than that, with bigger solar arrays.

North Carolina currently ranks number 2 nationally in solar power, behind California. That's mainly because of big commercial solar farms that dot the landscape. Residential rooftop solar hasn’t grown as quickly, especially since state tax credits expired two years ago, although federal tax credits remain. And state law still prevents third parties from owning solar panels and selling power to consumers or institutions. So it all  has to go through Duke Energy. 

A home rooftop solar installation can cost from around $7,000 to more than $30,000, depending on the size of the solar array and the condition of your roof.

Hannah Wiegard is with Renu Energy Solutions, a solar installer in Charlotte. She said the big question is how fast customers will sign up. "If this program is as popular as Renu Energy expects, it may be completely subscribed partway into 2018, so we would encourage folks to act fast to get the rebate," she said. 

She said they're still studying the details, but here's how it will work.

“Someone will get solar power installed on their home or business, starting this year, in 2018. And then they'll be able to apply for funds under this rebate program, for essentially a discount on their solar,” Wiegard said.

A similar Duke program in South Carolina ran out of money, and Duke hopes that won’t happen here.  The company plans to allocate about $12.4 million a year to the rebates, or $62 million over five years.  So if you miss out this year, more money will be available next year.   

The program must be approved by state regulators.

Duke says it's preparing two other programs called for under state law: 

  • Shared Solar - This program, sometimes called "community solar," would let customers "subscribe" to the output of a nearby solar facility. Duke says it's an alternative for those who don't want to own their own solar arrays. 
  • Green Source Advantage - This would allow large customers to buy solar power to offset the amount of power purchased from Duke Energy. It's an expanded version of an existing Duke pilot program. 

For details about the solar rebates, visit the solar page on Duke-Energy.com

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.