Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said March 2 that it is venturing into solar power in a big way with plans to add up to 500 MW of utility-scale solar in Florida by 2024.
“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,” said Alex Glenn, state president, Duke Energy Florida.
The plan for the addition of solar was filed March 1 as part of the company’s 2015 Ten-Year Site Plan filed with the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC). These plans, filed each year, are basically what is referred to as an integrated resource plan (IRP) in other states.
Construction of the first site – up to 5 MW – will begin later this year with 35 MW expected to be completed by 2018. These initial solar energy facilities will enable Duke Energy Florida to evaluate costs, and to monitor the effects of this resource on the electric grid infrastructure.
The new solar energy facilities will complement already planned investments by Duke Energy Florida to build a state-of-the-art combined-cycle natural gas plant in Citrus County next to its Crystal River coal/nuclear plant, upgrade its combined-cycle Hines plant in Polk County and purchase Calpine‘s (NYSE: CPN) Osprey plant, also in Polk County. These investments will enable the company to meet a significant need for additional generation beginning in 2018 and to retire half of its Florida coal-fired fleet by that same year. Those coal retirements are Unit 1 and 2 at the Crystal River plant.
Since 2005, Duke Energy Florida has invested more than $2 billion on upgrades to its generating facilities that have reduced almost 9.8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Over the past eight years, Duke Energy has invested more than $4 billion in wind and solar facilities in 12 states and this includes the company’s Stanton Solar Farm located in Orange County. The company plans to invest $2 billion to $3 billion in renewable energy in the next five years.
“The University of South Florida in St. Petersburg has long enjoyed a partnership with Duke Energy, which shares our values around sustainability and has established itself as a leader in developing solar and renewable programs,” said Jessica Blais, USFSP communications director. “We are excited that they will bring this expertise to others in Florida.”
For many years, Duke Energy Florida has advanced solar technology in its service area, including:
- Partnering with the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg to fund a $1 million solar photovoltaic (PV) installation that integrates a battery storage system on the school’s campus.
- Funding more than $8 million to assist residential and commercial customers who installed approximately 2,000 of their own solar PV systems.
- Funding more than $7 million in solar PV system installations at approximately 50 K-12 schools to help foster renewable energy education. Some of these schools also serve as emergency shelters.
- Establishing a new Solar Service Center to safely and reliably integrate about 20 megawatts of rooftop solar owned by Duke Energy Florida’s customers on the electric grid.
Duke Energy Florida owns coal-fired and natural gas generation providing about 9,000 MW of owned electric capacity to approximately 1.7 million customers in a 13,000-square-mile service area.