New Hampshire — An RFP issued in February 2014 is paying off in spades for the solar industry with Duke Energy today announcing that it is making a $500 million commitment to solar power in North Carolina. Duke said that the announcement furthers its commitment to renewable energy, helps diversify its energy portfolio and helps it meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS).
The solar capacity will also provide customers greater access to renewable energy in a cost-effective manner, said Duke.
The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities — totaling 128 megawatts (MW) of capacity — including the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) facility east of the Mississippi River. 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.”
Duke Energy will own the following projects:
- 65 MW – Warsaw Solar Facility, Duplin County (developed by Strata Solar), which will be the largest PV plant east of the Mississippi River.
- 40 MW – Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County (developed by HelioSage Energy)
- 23 MW – Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County, near Cumberland County line (developed by Tangent Energy Solutions)
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 power-purchase agreements, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 MW of capacity.
Good But Not Good Enough, Says Greenpeace
In response to the news, Greenpeace Climate and Energy Campaigner Monica Embrey said that her organization was “encouraged” by the news but criticized the investment as not a large enough.
“Duke Energy’s long term plans still call for renewable energy like solar to account for a mere 4 percent of its energy portfolio 15 years from now,” she said. “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,” she continued. “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.”
Not The End, Says Duke
Duke Energy’s RFP targeted solar facilities greater than 5 MW that were in the company’s current transmission and distribution queue.
“We were able to pursue the most promising projects in North Carolina,” said Caldwell who said that the RFP was 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. “Through the years, Duke Energy’s strength has been owning and operating generation assets reliably and safely for the benefit of our customers. Renewable energy is the next step in that evolution.”