Duke Energy Proposes Tripling Florida’s Solar-Power Capacity

Duke Energy Corp. plans to install as much as 500 megawatts of solar power in Florida by 2024, a proposal that would more than triple the capacity of the Sunshine State.

Duke’s Florida utility plans to start building the first site this year and complete 35 megawatts of solar power by 2018, the company said in a statement Thursday. Florida ranks 13th in installed solar capacity, with 234 megawatts, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Duke’s utility currently owns no solar in the state, which doesn’t require renewable power use and prohibits leases that have spurred an explosion of solar elsewhere in the U.S. It has been slow to adopt the technology despite ranking third in rooftop solar potential. California, Arizona and Hawaii have seen installations surge as companies like SolarCity Corp. offer leases that allow homeowners to buy power from systems installed on their rooftops.

“Innovative investments in solar energy will provide customers with more options to use this resource, while diversifying our energy mix and continuing to meet the needs of Florida’s growing economy and population,” Alex Glenn, state president for Duke, said in the statement.

Pro-solar advocates are gathering support for a ballot initiative that would allow solar companies to compete in the state. NextEra Energy Inc., owner of the state’s largest utility, announced plans in January to build three solar plants that would bring its capacity to about 335 megawatts from 110.

Duke said the added solar capacity, along with plans to build a natural gas-fired power plant and buy one, will help to retire half its coal-fueled facilities by 2018. The proposal to expand solar was filed with Florida regulators as part of the utility’s 10-year plan.

‘Highly Subscribed’

The utility, which serves 1.7 million customers in the state, plans to continue offering about $2 million worth of annual rebates to homes and businesses that install solar, said Sterling Ivey, a company spokesman. About 2,000 customers have done so, he said

“These programs are very popular and highly subscribed,” Ivey said in a phone interview.

Duke Energy Florida’s Charlotte, North Carolina-based parent has invested more than $4 billion in utility-scale renewable-energy projects over the past eight years and in February bought a majority stake in REC Solar Commercial Corp., which builds solar power systems for businesses and schools.

Copyright 2015 Bloomberg

Lead image: Florida sign. Credit: Shutterstock.