Solar Panels as Real Estate Investment

Catawba County is set to spearhead North Carolina’s effort to be a green economy and a hub of solar panel development. This comes on the back of the first of two proposed 20 megawatt solar farms being developed by Apple. The first park will cost a cool $1 billion and will be placed at its Maiden data center with the other, of equal size, being developed nearby. In addition to this a California based company is developing a 17.5 megawatt plant in Claremont and Chapel Hill based Strata Solar are working on a 6.4 megawatt farm. There is already an existing farm of 10 megawatt capacity at Lake Norman, which is run by Duke Energy.

These developments will help Catawba County overcome Guilford County as the center for solar energy in the state. At the moment, Guilford boasts a total capacity of 32 megawatts, while the developments in Catawba could reach an estimated 73.9 megawatts once the developments are finished. This is good news for those who believe in solar energy and for jobs in the solar energy industry in the county and wide region, but is it a good thing for house holders? Furthermore, it begs the question of whether solar energy is a good investment for the property market or to raise the value of your own home?

Pros of Solar Panels

The pros for using solar panels in the home are as follows. Installing a decent amount of solar panels or modules will potentially cover 98% or even 100% of energy bills. If you generate enough electricity it is possible to sell back the excess to your energy provider. This makes such technology a long term investment that becomes cheaper over time due to its zero maintenance costs (if installed correctly) and its 20-25 year guarantee. Even if you take a loan out to cover the investment costs, it is possible for the monthly payments to become negligible when offset with money saved from not paying your utility company for their electricity.

The Cons

Despite being first invented in the 1800s and despite serious development beginning in the 1940s, the solar industry remains fairly new and fresh. Only in the last two decades have strides been made and in the last half decade or so have homeowners been able to take advantage of home solar energy. The biggest drawback for most homeowners is the installation cost. The fees of up to $50,000 is just too much. Subsidies, tax credits and rebates can help make this affordable, but for many people even a loan to cover the rest may prove too risky or expensive. It also requires knowledge and research of the product, how it should be installed, maintained and used properly. An additional cost that may push homeowners over the edge against using solar panels is that in some cases, roofs need to be fixed or re-built to ensure they can take the panels otherwise the bill could go sky high.

North Carolina’s Solar Tax Credits

North Carolina is now seen as a regional trend setter and leader in the solar panel industry. It has done more than most other states to encourage the use of solar panels in both homes and business situations. This is a great state to think about using solar energy in your home. For example, the NC solar tax credit is valued at 35% of costs up to a maximum of $10,500. The state does lack a state wide rebate system and therefore, the only rebate on offer at the moment is with Progress Energy, which offers a rebate of $1,000/kw (kilowat) on the solar panel installation fee and also a $4.50 a month credit on bills. There’s more, if the installation of solar panels increases the property value, then your home will be exempt from related increases in property tax. About 80% of any tax increase due to this change will be wiped off the slate. Furthermore, unless you get your solar power from Progress Energy, you will generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits or SRECs. These can be sold for $0.10/kw to NC Green Power or NCGP for short.

Real Estate Value

It is tricky for real estate agents to estimate how much value solar panels add to the property. This is because it is difficult to integrate the cost of installation, which can cost between £20,000-£50,000 a home depending on rebates, subsidies and tax credits. The presence of solar panels may have limited payments for some properties to individuals or families interested in keeping solar energy. This sense, value is accrued by the opinion of the buyer rather than the value of the house itself. Someone against solar energy will want to pay less, but someone who sees the benefits will want to pay more. In order to boost your position compile statistics for your household energy bills before and after the installation of the panels in order to prove how advantageous they are. This may help the real estate seller prove to prospective buyers why the extra cost for your house is worth it in the long term. One thing is for sure, though, is that if you need to re-do your roof to accommodate the panels, that will add value to your property.

Source:  Eve Pearce,