Solar panels installed atop Banks Avenue building on Asheville’s South Slope

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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banks_ave_solar_2016This is cool. Press release here:

The building owners of 32 Banks Avenue in the South Slope neighborhood are installing solar panels, en-couraging others to do the same. People looking to get solar panels fitted to the roofs of their residential properties are advised to get quotes from companies committed to excellent energy efficiency, like Vortex Donuts, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Catawba Brewing, Banks Ave Bar, and all the other businesses at 32 Banks will soon be enjoying green energy.

There are two main reasons 32 Banks decided to go solar. The first, of course, is the environmental impact. Rejecting the “tear-down” mentality, we wish to sustain and pre-serve the beauty of old and historic buildings in our city, and installing solar panels is one more way we can help restore and modernize these buildings while still maintaining their wonderful character.

The second reason is efficiency. To be a smart business owner, it’s sensible to make a choice that keeps costs down for our tenants, since they are the ones paying those util-ity bills. This is especially pertinent with older buildings, which have proportionately higher utility costs. Furthermore, having lower utility bills can help mitigate the height-ened taxes in downtown Asheville, which have driven the cost of rents higher and higher every year.

We are so excited about this change that we want to encourage others to follow suit, and have outlined our process to help those who wish to go solar:

The cost of solar panels and installation has gone down enormously over the past ten years, and we were able to pay cash for our system. Financing is available, but it is hard to come by. As with any major financial investment, seek quotes from the many great companies out there. We used Sugar Hollow Solar because they had the best solutions to work with our complicated roof line. (Sugar Hollow Solar does have financing availa-ble if it fits your unique situation, though it has to be negotiated individually.) Next, it is important to partner with your contractor to understand your roof situation. In our case, we had flat spots on the roof and barrel roofs. We started with the flat spots as phase one, and within six years, we will have the entire roof covered, including the barrel shapes.

In the case of 32 Banks Avenue, we use “net metering.” This is a system whereby the solar panels generate a lot of electricity during the day, all of which is fed into the power grid. Later, at night when the sun isn’t shining, the building sucks electricity back out of the grid. Duke Power puts a meter on the building that calculates the exact amount of electricity that is fed into the grid all day long. At the end of the month, Duke Power credits that amount back towards the electric bill. With the net metering system, our en-tire project will have paid for itself in energy savings within 7 years.

There used to be a NC tax credit incentive of 35% that was rolled back at the end of last year. There still is a federal tax credit of 30% that was extended to 2021. Even with the loss of the NC tax credit, again, this system will still have paid for itself within 7 years. There are also depreciation advantages for property owners.

The resident businesses of 32 Banks: Vortex Doughnuts, Buxton Hall Barbecue, Ca-tawba Brewing, Banks Ave Bar, Empyrean Arts, and Brent Campbell Architecture are very excited about the panels and applaud the building owners in seeing this through. Nothing better than making things more affordable for our small businesses and contrib-uting to a more sustainable future while we’re at it!

SIDE NOTE: Duke Power is petitioning the state utility commission to stop allowing net metering, because they want to increase their profits. If we ever hope to leave behind fossil fuels, continuing to give incentives to clean energy efforts will encourage all of us to make better environmental decisions without having to worry about the financial set-back. Duke’s petition and others like this will only hurt the growth of solar and clean en-ergies in our state.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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1 Comment

  1. indie August 5, 2016

    This piece is rather simplistic and avoids the complications.

    The utility company buys the power from the solar panel generation entity at the full rate as they are required to do (in most states). The utility could buy the same power at a discounted rate from a wholesaler, but must accept the solar generated power and at the full price. In essence the generator of the power gets to use the grid’s fixed costs for free.

    Great deal if you can afford a 7 year payback on your solar panel investment. For everyone else, including the poor, electricity costs are higher than they otherwise would be.


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