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Baltimore mourns Rep. Elijah Cummings, who 'Fought for All.' Also on our rundown: Rick Perry headed for door as Energy Secretary; and EPA holds its only hearing on rolling back methane regulations.

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While controversy swirls at the White House, the Chicago Teachers Union goes on strike, and retired Admiral Joe Sestak walks 105 miles across New Hampshire.

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Solar Made Affordable For Some North Carolina Residents

Photo: Solarize Asheville offers an affordable way to harness solar energy. Courtesy: Solarize Asheville
Photo: Solarize Asheville offers an affordable way to harness solar energy. Courtesy: Solarize Asheville
September 19, 2013

ASHVILLE, N.C. – On Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is expected to announce guidelines for carbon emissions at new coal-fired power plants.

But some homeowners in one part of North Carolina have found a way to make sure the energy they use is powered by the sun.

Solarize Asheville is a new effort by community members to put solar panels on their homes in a more cost-efficient way.

Katie Bray, program director for Solarize Asheville, says her company's model operates similar to a wholesale club such as Sam's Club or Costco.

"Our goal is to make solar energy more affordable and easier for homeowners to adopt,” she says. “And we reduce the cost by organizing citywide group purchasing."

Bray says so far 230 homeowners have signed up and will save as much as 38 percent on the cost of their solar installation – compared with the average cost last year in North Carolina.

The model has been successfully done in about 10 other states, but North Carolina is the first state in the Southeast.

Bray adds Solarize Asheville is looking to expand the program beyond Asheville to other parts of the state.

Matt Menne was the first person to sign up for Solarize Asheville. His panels will be installed next week.

He says he's not just excited about the savings on his electric bill.

"I think it's a way to personally reduce your carbon footprint,” he explains. “This is a really great opportunity since it's reducing the overall cost and the tax rebates are currently pretty significant."

On sunny days, solar panels will generate electricity to power the home. Any unused energy will be sold back to the grid and the homeowner will receive a credit that can be used when he or she needs to use power from the grid – on cloudy days or at night.

Bray says she hopes the program changes outlooks as well as utility bills.

"The idea behind this program is anything that we can do to change our behaviors and make ourselves more conscious of how we're using energy and where it's coming from and what the actual true costs of that are," she explains.

Solarize Asheville also has partnered with a bank to help homeowners fund the cost of the panels.

There are currently state and federal tax rebates to help offset the costs of solar installation.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC