Duke Energy to add 128 MW solar power with three new projects
• The three new solar facilities planned in North Carolina will be in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties
• Duke Energy has also signed up to purchase solar power from five new projects in the state
• Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 MW.
NEW YORK – Duke Energy, the country's largest electricity company, Monday announced a $500 million commitment to acquire and construct three large solar farms in the state totaling 128 megawatts (MW) of capacity including a 65-MW array that Duke says will be the largest east of the Mississippi River.
North Carolina-based Duke Energy said the three new solar facilities in North Carolina in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties are part of its commitment to expand its capacity for generating solar power and thereby diversify its energy portfolio.
The move will help the Charlotte-based utility meet North Carolina's Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS). It also provides customers greater access to renewable energy in a cost-effective manner.
The projects announced Monday by Duke Energy also include agreements to purchase solar power from five new solar projects in the state.
Combined with the three solar facilities that Duke will own and operate, the eight projects will boost the amount of solar power generated for the utility's North Carolina customers by 60 percent.
This culminates the company's request for proposals (RFP) issued in February 2014 for new solar capacity.
The three facilities will be located in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties.
Duke Energy also signed power-purchase agreements with five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 MW of capacity. Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 MW.
The $500 million commitment includes the investment in the three facilities and the value of the five long-term power-purchase contracts.
“This is Duke Energy's largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”
The projects include a 65 MW Warsaw Solar Facility, Duplin County developed by Strata Solar, a 40 MW Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County developed by HelioSage Energy, and a 23 MW Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County, near Cumberland County line developed by Tangent Energy Solutions.
“We are very excited to be working with Duke Energy on this tremendous solar project,” said Markus Wilhelm, chief executive officer of Chapel Hill-based Strata Solar.
“Three years ago, we celebrated with Duke Energy at the completion of our first 5-megawatt solar farm in Cleveland County and Strata recently passed the 325-megawatt mark with more than 65 farms generating power in the Southeast.”
Duke Energy will purchase power from five new projects including two projects of 48 MW each. One of them is in Bladen County developed by Innovative Solar Systems and the second is in Richmond County developed by FLS Energy.
The third project is a 20 MW facility in Scotland County developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy. The fourth is a 19 MW unit in Cleveland County developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy, while the fifth is a 15 MW project in Beaufort County developed by Element Power US.
In addition to these five power-purchase agreements, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 MW of capacity.
“We were able to pursue the most promising projects in North Carolina,” said Caldwell. “These will be among the largest solar projects in the state, allowing us to take advantage of greater size and scale.”
Duke will pay about 10 percent less for the energy from the large new farms than it would have from smaller solar projects, said Rob Caldwell, Duke's senior vice president for distributed generation. At least in theory, that saves customers money.
Caldwell called the RFP a success and saw it as a big step in the company being more aggressive at adding renewable energy to Duke Energy's generating mix.
“We will continue to seek opportunities to add renewable energy to our diverse energy portfolio,” he said.
While Duke Energy is making inroads into renewable energy sources, the Fortune 250 company provide mostly fossil fuel based power supply to consumers.
The 57,500 megawatts of generating capacity it is serving to over seven million people comes from a mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil and renewable resources. As of 2011, 45 percent of the company's generation came from coal-fired power plants and 51 percent from nuclear power. The company predicts coal's percent of the mix will drop to 29 percent by 2031.