Duke Energy marks busy 2015 for solar development in North Carolina

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said Jan. 20 that 2015 was a banner year for solar power in North Carolina as Duke Energy companies set a record for the amount of solar energy they added in the state at more than 300 MW.

In its regulated service territory, Duke Energy committed $500 million for a major expansion of solar power in North Carolina. Last year, the company constructed and now owns four utility-scale solar projects totaling 141 MW and is buying 150 MW of solar power from other developers. The 141 MW represents about 25% of the total installed solar capacity in Duke Energy’s North Carolina service territory in 2015.

The company-owned sites are in Bladen, Duplin, Wilson and Onslow counties. At the Onslow County site, the 13-MW Camp Lejeune Solar Facility is the company’s first solar project located at a military base.

“Solar is helping to modernize our generation mix and better serve our customers’ needs,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources. “We plan to continue the momentum; we’ve already announced we will build an additional 75 megawatts in 2016.”

Also in North Carolina, Google was the first customer to announce participation in Duke Energy’s Green Source Rider, a program that gives customers the option to purchase renewable energy to offset new energy consumption. Duke Energy will buy the power from a 61-MW solar project, owned by Rutherford Farms LLC, for Google’s expanded data center in Caldwell County.

Also in 2015, Duke Energy Renewables, a commercial business unit of Duke Energy, built eight solar projects in North Carolina, totaling more than 160 MW and representing an investment of nearly $400 million. This included the 80-MW Conetoe facility, the largest solar project brought on line east of the Mississippi, and a 5-MW project in Tarboro that was completed on Dec. 31.

“With these projects, Duke Energy Renewables more than doubled its solar capacity in the state last year,” said Greg Wolf, president, Duke Energy Commercial Portfolio. “We’re proud to partner with communities throughout Eastern North Carolina to bring competitively priced solar energy and economic development to the region.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration says North Carolina should be second only to California for utility-scale solar construction in 2015. Duke Energy’s investments in the state have been instrumental in North Carolina ranking fourth in the nation cumulatively and No. 1 in the South for solar capacity.

Duke Energy’s regulated utility solar projects are:

  • Warsaw, Duplin County, 65 MW (ac);
  • Elm City, Wilson County, 40 MW (ac);
  • Fayetteville, Bladen County, 23 MW (ac); and
  • Camp Lejeune, Onslow County, 13 MW (ac).

Duke Energy Renewables’ solar projects are:

  • Creswell, Washington County, 14 MW (ac);
  • Everetts Wildcat, Martin County, 5 MW (ac);
  • Battleboro, Edgecombe County, 5 MW (ac);
  • Sunbury, Gates County, 5 MW (ac);
  • Capital Partners Phase II, Kelford and Whitakers, 33 MW (ac);
  • Conetoe, Edgecombe County, 80 MW (ac);
  • Shawboro, Currituck County, 20 MW (ac); and
  • Tarboro, Edgecombe County, 5 MW (ac).

In addition to its owned solar generation, Duke Energy also buys about 1,000 MW of solar energy through power purchase agreements in North Carolina. Since 2011, Duke Energy Renewables has constructed 25 solar facilities in North Carolina, representing 270 MW and an investment of about $700 million.

Over the past eight years, Duke Energy has invested more than $4 billion in wind and solar facilities in 12 states. The company plans to invest an estimated $3 billion in renewable energy over the next five years.

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.