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Top Cities for Solar Energy in North Carolina (2021)

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As homeowners seek new ways to reduce their carbon footprint, minimize their use of traditional forms of energy and lower utility bills, solar power is on the rise. One state that's leading the charge toward earth-friendly power is North Carolina.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the Tar Heel State is the third top state for solar installation in the entire U.S. North Carolina's total investment currently tops out at a staggering $10.1 billion, and the state has enough solar installed to power almost 900,000 homes.

Of course, some areas of the state are more solar-forward than others. In this article, we'll take a look at the top cities for solar energy in North Carolina.


Top 10 Cities for Solar in North Carolina

To determine North Carolina's top cities for solar, we examined data provided by a variety of organizations, including generation reports from the Energy Information Administration, capacity maps from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and city-specific analyses by Environment America.

Based on our findings, these are the top 10 cities for solar in North Carolina:

  1. Asheville
  2. Raleigh
  3. Charlotte
  4. Durham
  5. Greensboro
  6. Chapel Hill
  7. Wilmington
  8. Winston-Salem
  9. Cary
  10. Concord

Map. Source: EcoWatch EcoWatch

1. Asheville

A progressive bastion within the state, there is little wonder why Asheville ranks No. 1 on our list of top solar cities in North Carolina. Asheville aggressively promotes solar energy, even going so far as to offer a rebate on building permits when solar is installed on either residential or commercial properties. Asheville currently has over 89.5 watts of solar capacity installed per person, which is the 18th-highest per-capita installation in the U.S.

2. Raleigh

As the capital of the state, Raleigh stands central to a few leading universities and is part of the Research Triangle, a major science and technology hub. As such, the area is deeply committed to innovation, so it is no surprise it ranks No. 2 in the state for its adoption of solar. The city has over 23.4 watts of solar PV capacity installed per person.

3. Charlotte

The Queen City has approximately 14 watts of total installed solar PV per person, and it's likely this number is set to grow as the local government pivots toward solar. Charlotte is currently in the process of transitioning 25% of its municipal buildings' electricity needs to solar energy.

4. Durham

Another part of the Research Triangle region, Durham is known for its technology companies and the fact that it is home to Duke University. The area leans progressive and has the reputation of being North Carolina's " hippest city." Likely because of this, its residents tend to think green and have been eagerly adopting solar as a way of combating climate change.

5. Greensboro

Situated in the center of the state, Greensboro is a rapidly growing area that encompasses a beautiful and vast natural environment. Residents bask in the abundant Carolina sunshine, and as such, NREL maps show the area has one of the highest potentials for annual solar generation in the state.

6. Chapel Hill

The town of Chapel Hill, also a member of the famed Research Triangle and home to UNC-Chapel Hill, has a focus on research and development that includes renewable energy. The town recently became a member of the U.S. Department of Energy's SolSmart Program, which means it receives federal technical assistance with enhancing opportunities for local solar generation.

7. Wilmington

Located along the Eastern Seaboard, Wilmington is a beach town that receives constant attention from the sun. The city encourages its residents to embrace conservation, and in a recent survey, 81% of respondents strongly agreed with the city's goal to transition to clean energy, and over half agreed solar was the best way to do so.

8. Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem, located near Greensboro as part of the Piedmont Triad area, is another North Carolina city that's promising for future solar installations. According to NREL maps, the city has an above-average number of buildings that are suitable for solar panels, and it has one of the highest roof-mount generation potentials in the state.

9. Cary

Located just outside Raleigh, it's easy to understand Cary's shared values with its sister city. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the South and attracts Northerners seeking the area's pleasant weather and abundant sunshine in droves. Expect to see Cary's solar adoption continue to grow in the coming years.

10. Concord

Planted just outside of Charlotte, Concord actively partners with NC GreenPower, an independent nonprofit organization that promotes the mission of expanding knowledge and acceptance of clean energy practices, including the adoption of solar. Concord's work has been paying off, as it assumes the 10th spot on our list of the top cities for solar in North Carolina.

Where Does Solar Make the Most Sense?

North Carolina is located in an area of the country known for its long, sunny summers and relatively short winters. This makes the state ideally situated to reap the benefits of solar. Of course, solar is also more attractive in cities that have adopted local financial incentives (more on that below).

The cost of energy can also make solar a better or worse decision. If costs associated with energy tend to be high, homeowners will get a better return on their solar energy investments. Conversely, if energy costs are low, the benefit associated with transitioning to solar energy is not as prevalent.

Average North Carolina Electricity Costs

In North Carolina's case, most homeowners can expect to spend significant amounts of money on utilities, which explains the state's heady move to solar.

Based on a report distributed by the EIA, the average monthly electricity bill for a North Carolina resident is $123.25, with average monthly consumption checking in at 1,079 kWh. These numbers aren't the highest in the South Atlantic region — which also includes Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia — but they aren't the lowest, either.

Compared with the national average of about $115 per month, North Carolinians pay a decent amount for energy, making the state's residents well-suited to receive considerable solar benefits.

North Carolina Solar Tax Incentives

Along with benefiting from low to nonexistent utility bills, North Carolina residents can take advantage of a few key financial incentives that make solar a more appealing investment. Here is an overview of what North Carolina homeowners should know about the state's tax incentives:

Incentive North Carolina Solar Incentive Details
Duke Energy solar power rebates Duke Energy customers who opt to install a solar panel system can receive a rebate of 60 cents per watt for systems up to 10 kW. The program is first-come, first-served, but customers can join a waitlist to receive future benefits when funds run out for the year.
Revolving loan options North Carolina allows for cities and counties to provide low-interest loans for solar panels as well as other energy upgrades. Interest rates on loans cap out at 8%.
State property tax exemption A solar panel system increases the value of your home, but North Carolina residents can rest assured their property taxes will not go up due to a solar-related increase.

Additionally, the state of North Carolina has a net metering policy that credits homeowners for the excess power that their system generates. The program is administered by two of the state's major power companies, Dominion Energy Virginia and Duke Energy.

Dominion Energy encourages homeowners who use solar to enroll in a net metering program to connect their system to the power grid. The utility will then install a meter that measures a two-way flow of electricity.

Duke Energy's program lets customers who generate electricity from a solar power system offset energy costs and receive a credit on their bill when excess energy is produced.

Federal Solar Tax Credits

Another incentive to be aware of if you live in North Carolina — or anywhere else in the U.S. — is the federal investment tax credit (ITC). This solar tax credit is recognized as one of the major drivers for encouraging Americans to adopt solar. It offers a credit valued at 26% of the cost of a home solar system.

North Carolina Solar Regulations

There are some key regulations that residents of the state of North Carolina need to be informed about as well. For instance, HB589 requires the creation of a rebate program and financing incentives to encourage customer adoption of clean energy like rooftop solar. From this legislation, a Solar Rebate Program has been created that seeks to attract and encourage homeowners interested in clean energy to install solar on their homes.

Another key point of HB589 is the establishment of a Community Solar Program, which allows North Carolina residents to collectively own a solar facility or subscribe to some of that facility's overall output. This program applies to developers, utilities or even a group of neighbors or customers.

The programs established by this bill are currently in development.

Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in North Carolina

It's easy to see why North Carolina is a top state for solar energy in the U.S., but there's still room for improvement. If your city didn't make our top list of the top cities for solar in North Carolina, there are a few ways to raise your area's solar profile.

First, you can install a solar panel system on your own roof and encourage your neighbors to do the same. You can also contact your elected officials (at the local, state and even federal level) to urge for more stringent renewable energy goals. By doing these things, you can play a big part in North Carolina's clean energy future.

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