Sustainability at Duke

Duke Employee Solar Discount Pilot Program


The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative (DCOI) is conducting research and implementing a pilot program to determine how residential solar can provide social and economic benefits to the surrounding communities in the Triangle area while also providing emission reductions to help Duke University become climate neutral by 2024.

The DCOI Residential Solar Employee Discount pilot program complements the DCOI's recent pilot programs in energy efficiency. This program focuses on removing barriers currently preventing Duke employees from investing in residential solar, such as:

  • Lack of information on residential solar
  • Lack of trust of contractors
  • Lack of upfront funding
  • Lack of access to low interest loans

DCOI co-lead a Bass Connections in Energy Program to research the current solar landscape in North Carolina, and found that there is a closing window of opportunity to take advantage of current tax incentives for residential solar. North Carolina's tax credit for 35% off installed cost is set to expire at the end of 2015, after which point the cost will rise significantly. To take advantage of the opportunity, the DCOI has taken initiative to streamline employees' access to quality information and discount pricing.


DCOI has collaborated with the following groups to design this pilot:solarhome

  • Sanford School of Public Policy* 
  • Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions*
  • Bass Connections in Energy
  • Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic **
  • UNC's Environmental Finance Center
  • Solarize Your Workplace
  • Yes! Solar Solutions 
  • Southern Energy Management

* denotes co-lead on the project
** denotes team resource on the project

Program Description

Building on best practices learned from the DCOI-HEAL Pilot Program, this solar employee discount pilot will test the ability of Duke University to generate greenhouse gas emission reductions through employee-based residential solar installations. The pilot project will enable Duke employees to purchase, install, and use solar for their homes at a 10-20% discount while supporting the University's carbon neutrality goals. In addition, the pilot will provide a model that can be replicated by other large employers, including other institutions of higher education.

Program Objectives

The proposed project is expected to accomplish four major objectives:

  1. Educate the Duke employee community on residential solar to empower employees to make informed decisions regarding whether solar energy is right for them. 
  2. Engage the Duke community in a coordinated and consistent manner to provide online and in-person educational tools that will inform employees about residential solar installation options. 
  3. Provide Duke employees access to affordable residential solar through trusted local installers. 
  4. Establish a pipeline of local renewable energy projects that can be tracked in terms of renewable energy production and avoided greenhouse gas emissions to establish a steady stream of carbon offsets to help Duke University meet its climate neutrality commitment, thereby achieving the University's mission of attaining climate neutrality through local and economically beneficial projects.

Project Components

By working with local installers and community partners to implement this pilot, Duke University will provide participating employees with:

  • Education about the benefits and challenges of investing in residential solar
  • Access to the expertise of seasoned local solar installers with a track record in previous group Solarize projects (including Solarize Carrboro and Solarize Durham)
  • Access to discount pricing for home solar system

Once the program is initiated Duke's primary role will be to provide information to employees and, eventually, to collect generation data from installed systems. After enrollment, the installers assume responsibility for each individual project with the goal of installing systems by December 31, 2015. This allows participating employees to claim the North Carolina state tax credit, 35% of system cost, before its expiration on January 1, 2016. At the end of the campaign, participating installers will be encouraged to apply for the Duke PERQs Program as a means of providing a more perennial discount.

Project BenefitsSolarpanel

  • Significant reduction in solar installation cost for Duke employees
  • Environmental leadership and emission reductions for Duke University
  • Community-wide engagement and mobilization
  • Replicable model for future programs and at other universities
  • Employee and student educational co-benefits

Program Requirements

In order to participate in the pilot program, participants must meet the following requirements:

  • Duke University affiliate (Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Family / Friend)
  • Own a house in the Triangle (Durham, Orange, Chatham, and Wake counties)
  • Willing to share your energy data (energy bills)

Installers will walk through a detailed qualification process to determine if solar makes sense for you.

How to Sign Up

The pilot program's sign up window is now closed. However, if you are interested in learning more about the solar market in NC and to investigate whether solar is right for you, please view the resources page.

If you have any questions about this program, please contact

Charles Adair, DCOI Program Manager 

Please note that Duke University does not endorse or affirm the quality of products or services provided by the Solarize program and its affiliated installers.  Rather, the solarize program is similar to the Duke PERQs program in that it provides employees access to discounts from local installers.

Photo credits: Minnesota Solar Challenge and Intel Free Press