Duke Energy reveals partners for US$500 million North Carolina solar push



Utility Duke Energy has announced partner companies have been chosen to help build three solar power projects in the state of North Carolina.

Assuming approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission, construction is to start on the three projects at the beginning of 2015, creating 750 local jobs, and to be completed by the end of 2015.

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The three solar projects proposed are part of Duke Energy’s US$500 million solar commitment. Duke Energy will construct and own the plants, stating once complete the projects will be some of the largest solar facilities on the East Coast.

The three developments total 128MW of new solar generation.

One project is the 65MW Warsaw Solar Facility in Duplin County.

Duke Energy announced Strata Solar as the Warsaw proejct’s engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, with panels manufactured by First Solar, and inverters from SMA Solar Technology.

The second is a 40MW development called ‘Elm City Solar Facility’ located in Wilson County. First Solar will supply Series-4 thin-film panels and serve as the EPC contractor. SMA Solar Technology will also supply this project’s inverters.

The third is a 23MW project in Bladen County, near the Cumberland County line. Phoenix Solar will be EPC contactor and panels will be manufactured by Yingli Solar.

Duke Energy is also planning to buy solar power from five other solar plants, to total 278 MW once the three projects under construction are complete.

Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, distributed energy resources said: “This furthers Duke Energy's commitment to the communities we serve while meeting our goal of bringing large amounts of cost-effective renewable energy onto our system.”

North Carolina's Solar Energy Associatio said the announcement “has promising implications for solar development in North Carolina.  NCSEA’s members, HelioSage Energy, Strata Solar, FLS Energy, Birdseye Renewable Energy and many others are committed to driving down the cost of solar.  Duke Energy’s intentions to include solar in their rate base tells us our members are succeeding in their efforts. NCSEA is reviewing the full announcement and will be working with our members in the weeks and months ahead to support the fulfillment of today’s news.“

The multiple projects follow a number of other solar projects also underway in North Carolina, in a recent wave of new solar developments.

Entropy announced 64MW are under construction in North Carolina last month. ET Solar is to provide modules to six other solar power plants to be constructed by FLS Energy in North Carolina this year.

Duke Energy also started construction of 30MW of solar in 2013 in the state and has the 12.5MW and 5MW Beaufort County solar plants, the 5MW Murfreesboro Solar Power project, and six 1MW solar projects already in North Carolina – and also recently approved the interconnection of an 80MW solar power plant, also in North Carolina.

Also 52MW of solar projects are to power two North Carolina universities. The projects are to be operational by 2015.

Meanwhile electronics retail giant, Apple, has been given the go-ahead to annex land in the city of Claremont in North Carolina, in order to construct a 17.5MW solar farm, and banking giant Wells Fargo invested US$100 million of tax equity financing in nine PV projects to be built by Strata Solar.

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