The North Carolina Utilities Commission was able on April 14, due to lack of any citizen protest, to grant a quick approval on a Feb. 2 application from Duke Energy Progress (DEP) for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) to construct a 12.8-MW (ac) solar photovoltaic facility to be located at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville in Onslow County, North Carolina.
The entire 80-acre site is located within Camp Lejeune, which is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense. Construction is anticipated to begin in April, following receipt of the requested CPCN from the commission and all necessary permits and approvals. Commercial operation is scheduled to begin in December 2015. The anticipated useful life of the facility is 25 years.
In February 2014, DEP and Duke Energy Carolinas, both of which are subsidiaries of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), issued a joint request for proposals (RFP) in an effort to procure 300 MW of solar energy resources. The Camp Lejeune project size of approximately 12.8 MW (ac) supports Duke’s goal established in the RFP. This 12.8 MW will bring the total solar generation capacity to approximately 291 MW delivered in 2015, assuming that all the selected projects from the RFP are completed.
Additionally, the commission noted that the timing of the project will allow DEP to leverage both the North Carolina Energy Tax Credit, which is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2015, as well as the federal Investment Tax Credit, which is set to reduce from 30% to 10% on Dec. 31, 2016.
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 facility and the substation will run parallel to existing distribution lines east of the facility site. All interconnection-related equipment will be within the leased acreage and is ancillary to the facility.
DEP will execute a site lease with the Department of the Navy that includes a fair market rental value for the facility and an interconnection route. DEP will provide the Department of the Navy with in-kind products and services, including studies, designs, infrastructure improvements and site improvements, as well as access to the generating asset in the event of a catastrophic grid failure.
DEP’s application stated that several months after the RFP was issued the Navy approached Duke seeking support for a major national security initiative aimed at ensuring that strategic military installations can operate during times of emergency when the electrical grid is unable to provide power. Part of the initiative includes a directive to site renewable energy generation facilities on military bases. However, the Navy is not always interested in owning or having operational responsibility for such facilities. Therefore, the Navy asked if Duke would be willing to own and operate a solar facility at Camp Lejeune.
Duke Energy announced April 16 that it had received this regulatory approval. It noted that this is Duke Energy’s first solar facility at a military base. It is expected to be online in 2015, the company added.
“We are excited to work with Camp Lejeune to meet its renewable energy needs as part of our continued focus to bring more renewable offerings for our customers and the communities we serve,” said Rob Caldwell, Duke Energy’s senior vice president for distributed energy resources, in the April 16 statement.
Crowder Construction Services, based in Charlotte, will serve as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor. The project will use approximately 55,000 monocrystalline solar panels supplied by SolarWorld Americas. General Electric’s (NYSE: GE) Power Conversion business will supply its Brilliance inverters to be built out of its Pittsburgh facility.