Duke nears final approval for solar project at North Carolina Marine base

A 12.8-MW (ac) solar project of Duke Energy Progress is steaming toward a quick approval at the North Carolina Utilities Commission, with the commission chairman on March 20 canceling a March 25 planned hearing and ordering that the parties draw up a proposed approval order for the commission to decide on.

On Feb. 2, this Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) subsidiary filed an application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to construct a 12.8-MW solar photovoltaic facility at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville in Onslow County, North Carolina. On Feb. 20, Duke Energy Progress filed direct testimony of James S. Northrup in support of its application. On Feb. 25, the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) filed a letter stating that NCSEA supports the application.

On March 16, the Clearinghouse Coordinator of the Office of Policy and Planning of the Department of Administration filed final comments with the commission stating that because of the nature of the comments no further review is needed by the commission to determine compliance with the North Carolina Environmental Policy Act. The final comments filed by the State Clearinghouse included comments by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) requesting that additional procedures for minimizing the impact of the facility be considered by Duke Energy Progress.

On March 17, a public witness hearing was held in Jacksonville as scheduled. The sole public witness to provide testimony was Capt. John Kliem, Deputy Director of the Department of the Navy Renewable Energy Program Office. Capt. Kliem testified that the Navy supports Duke’s application.

On March 18, Duke filed a motion to cancel hearing, stating that it and the commission’s Public Staff are the only parties to this docket, there does not appear to be a need to have the parties’ witnesses present further testimony, the parties are preparing a joint proposed order to be filed with the commission, and the Public Staff joins Duke in its motion to cancel the evidentiary hearing scheduled for March 25.

“Based on the foregoing and the record, the Chairman finds good cause to cancel the evidentiary hearing scheduled for March 25, 2015,” said the March 20 order. “Further, the Chairman finds good cause to accept into the record DEP’s application, the testimony presented by Capt. Kliem at the public witness hearing on March 17, 2015, the direct and supplemental testimony and exhibits filed by DEP witness Northrup, and the affidavits of Public Staff witnesses [Michelle] Boswell and [Jay] Lucas. Finally, the Chairman finds good cause to direct that DEP and the Public Staff shall file proposed orders, or a joint proposed order, on or before April 6, 2015.”

“The Facility represents a unique opportunity for DEP to procure cost effective Renewable Energy Credits (‘RECs’) for purposes of complying with the North Carolina Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (‘REPS’) while assisting the U.S. Department of the Navy to meet critical national energy security initiatives,” said the Feb. 2 application. “For the reasons stated below, DEP respectfully requests that the Commission approve this CPCN request. Given the beneticial economics if the project is placed in-service prior to December 31, 2015, DEP would appreciate the Commission’s prompt consideration of this request.”

The facility will interconnect on the low-voltage side of the DEP Camp Lejeune 12.5/230-kV substation via new 12.5-kV lines from the facility. The proposed interconnection route between the project site and the substation will run parallel to existing distribution lines east of the site. Duke Energy Progress said it will execute a site lease with a fair market rental value with the Department of the Navy for the facility and interconnection route.

Duke Energy has selected Crowder Construction Services, a North Carolina-based construction firm, to construct the Camp Lejeune Solar Project. Startup, commissioning and performance testing of the facility is expected to begin in November 2015 and continue through December 2015.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.