Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE:DUK) is making a $500 million commitment to a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina.
The company will acquire and construct three solar facilities — totaling 128 megawatts of capacity — including the largest solar photovoltaic facility east of the Mississippi River. The three facilities will be in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties.
Duke also signed power-purchase agreements for five new solar projects in the state, representing 150 megawatts of capacity.
Together, the eight projects will have a capacity of 278 megawatts. 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,” Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources, said in a statement Monday morning. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”
The solar commitments are the result of Charlotte-based Duke’s request for proposals issued in February for new solar capacity. The company says the initiative will help further its commitment to renewable energy, diversify its energy portfolio and meet North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard.
Duke Energy will own the following projects:
- 65-megawatt Warsaw Solar Facility developed by Strata Solar in Duplin County.
- 40-megawatt Elm City Solar Facility developed by HelioSage Energy in Wilson County.
- 23-megawatt Fayetteville Solar Facility developed by Tangent Energy Solutions in Bladen County.
The Warsaw Solar Facility will be the largest solar photovoltaic 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-megawatt solar farm in Cleveland County — and Strata recently passed the 325-megawatt 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:
- Innovative Solar Systems’ 48-megawatt plant in Bladen County.
- FLS Energy’s 48-megawatt plant in Richmond County.
- Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 20-megawatt plant in Scotland County.
- Birdseye Renewable Energy’s 19-megawatt plant in Cleveland County.
- Element Power US’s 15-megawatt plant in Beaufort County.
In addition to those five power-purchase agreements, Duke Energy has signed 33 other agreements in North Carolina in 2014 for projects totaling 109 megawatts of capacity.
Duke’s RFP targeted solar facilities greater than 5 megawatts. The RFP was limited to projects that were in the company’s current transmission and distribution queue.
“We were able to pursue the most promising projects in North Carolina,” Caldwell said. “These will be among the largest solar projects in the state, allowing us to take advantage of greater size and scale.”
For projects Duke will own, the company must obtain approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Duke will then take ownership of the facilities and be responsible for building and having them in operation by the end of 2015. No utilities commission approval is needed for the company’s power-purchase agreements.