Duke Energy to Increase Its Solar Power Capacity

Tyra Hilliard
Staff Writer

PC: Duke Energy

Over the next two years, Duke Energy has set a goal to boost at least a fifth of its solar power supply to North and South Carolina. The plan is credited to company-owned and third-party partnerships and projects. In all, 14 projects will add around 600 megawatts of solar power to the 3,000 that the Charlotte-based electric company sends across the Carolinas.

10 of the 14 projects will be in North Carolina and six of them will be completely owned by Duke Energy. The remaining four are solar farms put together by other utility groups that Duke Energy could either buy once the farms are completed, or they will enter a long-term contract with the company.

“This will enhance Duke Energy’s efforts to promote a cleaner energy mix at lower prices for consumers,” said senior executive of Duke Energy, Rob Caldwell.

Duke Energy officials calculate that after 20 years of operation of the solar farms, power customers will save roughly $375 million. The solar farms represent an investment of $750 million.

All 14 projects were chosen among the 78 proposals submitted through a, “Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy.” The judges picked the winners based on their ability to meet basic, technical requirements, and their financial competitiveness.

Caldwell stated that the Duke Energy’s success in earning six of the 14 chosen projects was “a strong reflection of how competitive we are in the open market at building renewable energy projects.”

A North Carolina state law passed two years ago outlined ways that the state could reach its renewable energy goals through mixture of ownership scenarios. That variety includes utility-owned solar projects, projects completed by outside investors then sold to state utility companies and solar farms operated by third-parties that sell their electricity to utility companies under contract.

The Tar Heel State only falls behind California in the growth of solar power usage in the nation. Duke Energy has plans to double its current solar capacity to the Carolinas to 7,000 megawatts over the next five years. A megawatt is equal to a million watts of electric power.

Despite steadily increasing their incorporation of solar power, Duke Energy is often criticized by environmentalists for “excessive reliance” on climate-threatening natural gas and coal fired plants. They also have been criticized for their use of rooftop solar panels, which allow residential customers to power their own home and sell some of it back to the utility company.

In terms of Greensboro, the closest solar farm is a 22.6 megawatt solar farm that is in the planning stages to the northwest in Surry County. Other solar farms are slated for Catawba, Cleveland, Cabarrus, Gaston and Onslow counties. The size of those projects ranges from 22.6 to 80 megawatts. These projects only account for less than half of the 602 megawatts stated in the selected proposal.

According to Duke Energy, most projects are expected to be completed by the end of the 2020. A report that discloses details on all 14 sites will be released by the independent monitor later this year.

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