EPA defines renewable energy (and more specifically "green power") as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible organic plant and waste material (or "biomass"), and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.To be financially competitive, “renewables” take advantage of federal and state tax credits, renewable energy credits and accelerated depreciation. Currently, cost-effective integration of renewable energy/green power is dependent upon private sector investors who can take advantage of the available federal tax credit and depreciation for installing renewable systems, and funnel their tax liability towards renewable energy. It is worth noting that the credit is not indefinite and will need to be renewed in 2016 to continue to incentivize renewable energy.
As a pilot project to investigate alternatives, the Town partnered with Carrboro Community Solar and the Appalachian Institute for Renewable Energy in 2012 for a small-scale (5kW) solar electric system (real time monitoring). The community investing model results in an “average” breakeven return for private investors in about 5 years, and a free or bargain system for the Town upon transfer of ownership with revenue generating ability from the sale of electricity. As a separate initiative, the “Solarize” model has recently been launched to encourage community members to install solar electric systems. A non-monetary “value” should also be placed on renewable energy development in Carrboro. As renewable energy expands, it helps brand Carrboro as a green community.