Duke Energy has announced a $500 million commitment to expand solar in North Carolina. This comes after the company’s request for proposals (RFP) issued in February 2014 for new solar capacity. In total, Duke is adding over 386 MW to its portfolio, which will help it to meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.
Duke will acquire and construct three solar facilities, totaling 128 MW of capacity. The three facilities will be located in Bladen, Duplin, and Wilson counties.
Duke also signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) 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 PPAs.
Duke Energy will own these projects:
- 65 MW – Warsaw Solar Facility, Duplin County (developed by Strata Solar)
- 40 MW – Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County (developed by HelioSage Energy)
- 23 MW – Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County (developed by Tangent Energy Solutions)
At 65 MW, the Warsaw Solar Facility in Duplin County will be the largest PV plant east of the Mississippi River.
“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 MW solar farm in Cleveland County. And Strata recently passed the 325 MW mark with more than 65 farms generating power in the southeast. We take a lot of pride in our work, and we are thrilled to be announcing this partnership between Strata Solar and Duke Energy on what will be the largest solar farm on the east coast.”
Duke Energy will purchase power from these new projects:
- 48 MW – Bladen County (developed by Innovative Solar Systems)
- 48 MW – Richmond County (developed by FLS Energy)
- 20 MW – Scotland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
- 19 MW – Cleveland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
- 15 MW – Beaufort County (developed by Element Power US)
In addition to these five PPAs, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 MW of capacity.
Greenpeace had a mixed reaction to this news. Climate and energy campaigner Monica Embrey said:
“We’re encouraged to hear that North Carolinians will benefit from the cleaner air and water, cheaper electricity rates, jobs, and other advantages of more solar power, but unfortunately, Duke Energy’s long term plans still call for renewable energy, like solar, to account for a mere 4% of its energy portfolio 15 years from now.
“North Carolina’s customers, ranging from families to the largest electricity users in the state like Google, Apple, Facebook, and the University of North Carolina, have all demanded more renewable energy from Duke.
“Those customers could benefit from even more solar power in North Carolina if Duke Energy would stop lobbying against policies like net metering that would help more residents and community leaders put solar on our homes, schools, and businesses.”
This response should not come as a surprise. Duke has been trying to lower net metering rates in the state and has even been the target of a recent TUSK ad. Duke could take a page out of Green Mountain Power’s playbook and find ways to work with distributed solar instead of fighting against it.