Distributed Solar Generation for Duke Employees


Fall 2014 - Spring 2015


Rooftop solar prices have dropped precipitously over the past few years, making renewable energy more accessible at the household level. However, market barriers, particularly in North Carolina, continue to prevent many consumers who are ideal candidates for rooftop solar from purchasing and installing a renewable energy system. Consumers also have limited access to third party experts qualified to answer questions and provide guidance throughout the purchase and installation process. Yet widespread adoption of solar technology has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lessen the environmental impact of electricity generation, increase grid security via distributed generation and decrease long-term electricity costs for consumers.

The Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, in partnership with faculty leads from the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions and the Sanford School for Public Policy, explored opportunities for encouraging Duke employees to purchase, install and/or use solar energy for their homes. This project aided the University in achieving its target emission reductions. The team members created a Duke University program that empowers employees to 1) determine if they are an ideal candidate for rooftop solar; 2) make the best decisions regarding rooftop solar installation; and 3) install rooftop solar if they are an ideal candidate.

Team members researched the technical, policy and economic aspects of residential solar. They attended conferences, collaborated with Duke administrators, interviewed community stakeholders and partnered with local solar installers. They discovered historically low prices and a narrowing window of opportunity to take advantage of North Carolina’s renewable energy investment tax credit. Next they created and conducted a solar marketing campaign, Solarize Duke, targeting Duke employees. By providing access to quality information, qualified local installers, a limited-time discounted pricing structure and attractive financing options, the team streamlined employees’ ability to take full advantage of residential solar while providing social and economic benefits to the Duke community.

During three months in Spring 2015, the program connected some 200 employees with two top Triangle area solar installers: Southern Energy Management and Yes! Solar Solutions—to install discounted solar at employees’ homes. The program takes advantage of 2016 federal and 2015 state solar tax credits, combining them with vendor-provided group discounts to deliver price cuts of as much as 65 percent in many cases.




Ellis Baehr, Jennifer Williams, James Ferguson, Daniel Ketyer, Jennifer Sekar


Billy Pizer, Tim Profeta, Charles Adair


Duke Carbon Offsets Initiative, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Clinic

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Campus Engagement, employees, Energy, Public Engagement, Research, residential solar, solar power