The largest US utility owner by market value, Duke Energy, announced Monday a commitment to invest $500 million into expanding the solar market in North Carolina. Duke Energy is set to acquire and construct three solar facilities to go hand-in-hand with five new power-purchase agreements (PPA).
“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,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”
Duke Energy will move to construct three new acquisitions:
- 65 MW – Warsaw Solar Facility, Duplin County (developed by Strata Solar)
- 40 MW – Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County (developed by HelioSage Energy)
- 23 MW – Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County, near Cumberland County line (developed by Tangent Energy Solutions)
The Warsaw project will be the largest PV plant east of the Mississippi River, consisting of approximately 850,000 solar panels and set to be online by the end of 2015.
“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. “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 signed power-purchase agreements totaling 278 MW of capacity across five projects:
- 48 MW – Bladen County (developed by Innovative Solar Systems)
- 48 MW – Richmond County (developed by FLS Energy)
- 20 MW – Scotland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
- 19 MW – Cleveland County (developed by Birdseye Renewable Energy)
- 15 MW – Beaufort County (developed by Element Power US)
On top of that, Duke Energy signed agreements with 33 other projects totaling 109 MW of capacity this year in North Carolina.
North Carolina has remained a solar powerhouse in the US for several years now. In recent numbers from solar analysis firm NPD Solarbuzz, North Carolina is fighting it out for second spot with Nevada for total number of projects, however both are light-years behind California.
Interestingly, at the beginning of 2014, NPD Solarbuzz’s Michael Barker claimed North Carolina was not only one of the country’s driving solar states, but could add enough capacity in 2014 to be counted as a Top 10 global PV country, alongside California.
To refer to the US as a ‘single’ country market misses many of the nuances underlying the market at the state level. it is common to use the phrase: ‘there is no US market; there are 50 state-level markets with a layer of federal policy on top’.
It will be interesting to see where North Carolina concludes the year in comparison to the rest of the US, especially in light of Duke Energy’s investments, and where they will forecast to be in 2015.
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