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Friday
Mar232012

Falling costs of solar panels means increasing usage

The sinking costs of solar panels means installations are at a record high.

The solar industry saw installations more than double in 2011. And one of the largest projects in the country is right here in North Carolina at Shoe Show's Kannapolis distribution center.

"It's the largest crystalline panel solar rooftop in the United States," said Kenny Habul, CEO of SunEnergy1. The Mooresville-based company designed and installed 18,464 solar panels on the roof of the concord distribution center.

"If this power was used in the building it would just about equal the buildings consumption," said Habul. Shoe Show has a power purchase agreement with Duke Energy to sell power back on the grid at 7 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

The panels taking up almost all of the roofs 1 million square feet, will produce about 7 million kilowatt hours in a year, enough to power 650 homes.

The 5.2 megawatts installed on the roof is just one example of the record number of installations in the United States, according to a new report by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Nationwide solar panel systems have more than doubled, with more than 1,800 megawatts of capacity in 2011, compared to 2010. North Carolina ranks eighth in the country with 55 megawatts installed in last year, up one spot from 2010.

Habul said the growth is, in part, due to CEOs like Robert Tucker, who want to be environmentally responsible and take advantage of tax incentives.

"We're building a couple new stores now, and we're considering putting solar on them," said Shoe Show President Robert Tucker.

The estimated cost of show show's solar project is around $30 million. More than a third of the cost is covered by state and federal subsidies.

North Carolina's 35-percent renewable energy tax credit is set to expire in 2015.

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