Duke installed over 550 MW of solar in the Carolinas in 2018

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There has been a fervent solar development march in the Carolinas by Duke energy over the past half-decade, a march which saw 565 MW of solar capacity installed in 2018.

Overall, Duke has added a total of 2,500 MW of solar in the two states over the last four years. This was in the context of North Carolina becoming the second largest state in the country in terms of total installed capacity. South Carolina, while behind its Northern namesake, has also seen a solar market start to take off.

In addition to Duke’s development boom, the company has also been offering solar rebate programs that it offers in the two states. In North Carolina, Duke’s rebate is a 5-year, $62 million program, with those funds being used to administer a 60-cent per watt (¢/W) credit for solar residential customers have installed.

The rebates stop at 10kW, or $6,000. Duke outlines that the average rooftop solar array is 8kW, meaning a $4,800 annual rebate. Businesses who apply will be eligible for a 50¢/W credit, while nonprofits are eligible for 75¢/W. These nonresidential projects cap out at 100 kW of installed capacity, meaning a maximum credit of $50,000 for businesses and $75,000 for nonprofits.

In South Carolina, Duke pays $1 per watt for qualified residential customers who install systems up to 20 kW on their property and for business customers who install systems up to 1 MW on their property, a program which has led to exponential growth in the South Carolina residential solar market.

However, it has not all been sunshine and daisies. Late in 2018 Duke voluntarily extended net metering in its South Carolina service areas until March of this year, but the company followed that up by proposing an increase in customers’ fixed-charge rates, up 220% and 238%, to $28 and $29 per month. The thing to remember with Duke is that smaller-scale solar development is more a dance than anything else. With all the rebate programs and large-scale development come the fixed-rate charges and mediocre compensation after net metering caps.

At the end of the day, this is still Duke and there is development on the horizon. After growing its Carolinas installed capacity totals by 65 MW from 2017 to 2018, the company has even more ambitious views, aiming to add 680 MW of new solar capacity in 2019.