Under the North Carolina Solar Photovoltaic Distributed Generation program (NCSPDG), Duke Energy plans to begin installing solar panels on roofs and properties with its service territory.
The program, approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) in December of 2008 at $100 million, faced a hitch in 2009 when Duke said it couldn’t proceed unless the commission identified the means by which the utility could recover program costs from customers. The NCUC is part of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissions, or NARUC.
On October 18, Duke Energy announced plan progress, saying that about $50 million would be invested to own a total of 10 megawatts of solar energy capacity in the state, or enough to power about 1,300 homes.
The panels are slated for four businesses, including Food Lion, National Gypsum Co, Childress Klein Properties Inc., and Highwood Properties Enterprise Park building.
The Food Lion installation will consist of 5,616 solar panels generating 1.3 megawatts at its distribution center in Salisbury. The National Gypsum installation will comprise 5,096 rooftop panels with a capacity of 1.2 megawatts. The Childress Klein installation, of 2,314 panels generating 532 kilowatts, will take place at the company’s Building 19 in the North Park Business Park – a new construction. The final installation, at Highwoods Properties building in Enterprise Park in Greensboro, will be the only installation outside the Charlotte region and will feature 7,020 panels with a capacity of 1.6 megawatts.
Duke Energy will eventually install smaller solar projects at homes within the utility’s service area, but none are included in the first round of installations. However, given the fact that the first round totals less than 5 megawatts, the residential solar installation is likely to cover a wide area of residential properties.
Duke Energy, which serves about 2.4 million customers in North and South Carolina (and another estimated 1.6 million customers in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky), is one of the “dirty dozen” utilities in the United States, a list headed by Southern Co. and followed by AEP and Duke.
In 2007, Duke generated 90 percent of its electricity via coal, and its newest project – a $2.3-billion IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) power plant, scheduled to come online in 2012 and sequester up to 1 million tons of carbon dioxide underground, is being carefully watched by environmentalists and lawmakers – the former because carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is an unproven technology, the latter because of proposed new cap-and-trade carbon emissions policies.
Thus 10 megawatts of clean, renewable solar energy is a mere drop in the bucket, but everyone has to start somewhere. The installations will be completed by the end of March, 2010.