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N.C. Lawmakers Debate Putting the Freeze on Solar Growth

CEI - The Digital Office in Raleigh took advantage of available state and federal tax credits to install 615 solar panels and a new "solar curve." Those tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2015 and 2016, respectively. Credit: CEI - The Digital Office.
CEI - The Digital Office in Raleigh took advantage of available state and federal tax credits to install 615 solar panels and a new "solar curve." Those tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2015 and 2016, respectively. Credit: CEI - The Digital Office.
September 10, 2015

RALEIGH, N.C. – The tax credit believed to be largely responsible for North Carolina's ranking as fourth in the nation for installed solar capacity is set to expire at the end of this year – unless lawmakers opt to extend the credit.

While the credit is debated, a new report from Environment North Carolina highlights the growth of solar in the state over the last several years.

Released today, the report includes the Tar Heel State in a list of 10 states that contribute 86 percent of the country's installed solar capacity. Rachel Morales with Environment North Carolina says solar is a large contributor to the state's economic success.

"It's good for the economy and it's good for jobs," she says. "It also meets our energy needs in a way that's clean, so that's why we feel it's beneficial to the state."

In addition to the 35 percent tax credit available from the state, the federal tax credit of 30 percent will expire at the end of 2016 unless Congress takes action.

Critics of clean-energy policy argue the state's policies increase energy costs. Renewable energy supporters say the rise in electricity bills is largely the result of rising fossil fuel costs over time.

Raleigh-based CEI - The Digital Office recently completed installation of some of the "solar curve," the latest in solar technology. The first of its kind in the country, the shape of the installation – visible from nearby U.S. Route 70 – increases solar output. In addition to the solar curve are 615 solar panels installed by the company last year at its Brickell Ave. headquarters.

CEI president Blake Alford says the company's investment is intended, in part, to start a conversation about clean energy.

"What we're hoping to have happen is people will come through and say, 'That's really neat, what is that?'" he says. "It's just a great conversation piece in trying to show what we're trying to do as a locally-owned company to support clean energy."

If both the state and federal tax credits are allowed to expire, Alford says it will impact the growth of solar.

"It would drastically affect the decision to go with solar," he says. "If you can't get the federal tax and state tax incentives, it would be cost-prohibitive."

CEI's solar installation cost $500,000, but the company will recoup most of its investment within four years. North Carolina is required to reduce its carbon emissions by 36 percent by 2030 under the EPA's Clean Power Plan.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC