By Kate Galbraith
James Rogers, chief of Duke Energy. The company plans to rent roof space for solar panels. (Photo: Chris Keane for The New York Times)
Putting solar panels on the roof can cost a homeowner tens of thousands of dollars up front. That’s a lot of cash in a tight market, even if the goal is clean, renewable energy.
A few utilities are trying another tack: renting the rooftops of homeowners or businesses, and handling the installation and maintenance of the solar panels themselves.
Duke Energy, a major utility serving the Carolinas and parts of the Midwest, aims to rent roof or land space from 425 sites in North Carolina. Final permission from the regulator is forthcoming, but Duke hopes that they will all start producing solar power by 2010.
The 425 sites represent about half of Duke’s original plan to install panels at some 850 sites, at a cost of about $100 million. The state’s Utilities Commission The Public Staff of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, an independent group within the commission that advocates for consumers, considered that plan too ambitious — and too expensive. (more…)