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Solar Is Starting To Make Sense To The Bottom Line


Solar discussions of the past relied on environmental issues to persuade people to buy into solar energy. For some, saving the planet for future generations was enough to invest in solar, but it was just too expensive to say it was a cost-saving measure. That is changing with new developments in the marketplace.

As traditional electricity costs go up and solar panel materials and installation costs go down, consumers are more likely to see solar as a viable option. Federal incentive programs with tax credits equaling as much as 30% and accelerated depreciation are also making solar an attractive solution for companies. 

Cost of electricity for 100 kW commercial PV system, financed at 5%, 20-year term from NC Clean Path 2025

“The growth of solar power has been very strong in recent years especially as prices have come way down,” NC WARN Executive Director Jim Warren said. “The pricing now has made solar power cheaper than traditional grid power in many states, including North Carolina.”

According to Warren, solar photovoltaic costs have dropped 75% to 80% in the past five to six years. Businesses can expect to recoup the cost of installation in three to eight years, depending on variables such as the size of the system, the nature of the roof and building and whether the solar panels would be mounted on the ground or above a parking area. 

More building owners are being proactive and reviewing their energy consumption, Lucas Tax + Energy Consulting principal Randy Lucas said. Rather than being passive, they are asking how and when they are using electricity.

North Carolina’s House Bill 589 was passed this summer with a solar rebate program. “We believe this will encourage more building owners and commercial real estate professionals to consider installation because this rebate is out there,” Lucas said 

Conservation is a selling point.

“This is something that building tenants and consumers want to see,” Lucas said. “IKEA made a commitment to put solar on all their buildings. People take notice of that and I’ve seen it being promoted in marketing material.”

Tesla Powerwall

Until recently, it was not possible to store solar to be used later. The best customers could do was get credit with net metering. The solution to solar storage has been deemed the holy grail of solar power, Warren said. 

Leaps in technology by Tesla and other companies have changed the course of storage by finding an affordable way to store solar energy with battery storage.

“This factor provides the complete solution,” Lucas said. “I don’t think you can take a commercial business off-grid, but energy storage does provide a key element.”

With battery storage, companies can use stored electricity when the sun is not shining.

“In North Carolina, for commercial businesses of all sizes, the price of electricity that comes from solar PV and battery storage, they can provide their own electricity for much less than they are currently paying for grid electricity,” Warren said.