Duke is going to get a lot more solar

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When North Carolina revised The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) in 2017, opinions on the policy change were mixed. But Duke Energy, which pushed hard for the change, argued that it would lead to heavily increased solar development.

And while North Carolina’s solar market has slowed since the change, the new structure is finally delivering. Today Duke announced the selection of 14 utility-scale solar projects, 10 for North and 4 for South Carolina, the sum of which is nothing short of monstrous: 602 MW. Maybe the folks at Duke read that Florida is set to overtake North Carolina for most solar in the Southeast and decided to try to change that.

Duke also shared that the company will directly construct six of these projects and purchase the remaining eight from independent developers, who have not been named as of the time of publication. Of the six projects to be built solely by Duke, five are new construction and one is an acquisition.

These 14 projects were selected from a larger pool of 78 proposals, and the majority of them are anticipated to be completed and on-line by the end of 2020, with the remainder following soon after.

So far the only known locations and capacities come from the six solar projects to be constructed or acquired by Duke. The projects are as follows:

  • 69 MW in Catawba County, N.C. (Duke Energy Carolinas)
  • 25-MW in Gaston County, N.C. (DEC)
  • 50-MW in Cleveland County, N.C. (Duke Energy Renewables)
  • 22.6-MW in Surry County, N.C. (DER)
  • 22.6-MW in Cabarrus/Stanly counties, N.C. (DER)
  • 80-MW Onslow County, N.C. (Duke Energy Progress, acquisition)

These Duke projects represent just a touch over 267 MW, roughly 45% of the overall procurement capacity. The one thing that we do know about the non-Duke projects is that two of them will feature accompanying battery storage.

So what does it cost to build and acquire this massive portfolio? According to Duke, $750 million in total capital investment. The projects are, however, anticipated to generate $375 million customer savings over 20 years, versus avoided cost.

While Duke is not yet free to disclose the names of the companies set to construct the 8 third-party project, it is likely that those companies will soon begin to announce the deals themselves. If not, Duke Energy and Accion Group will be releasing a report of all projects to be filed with the NCUC which is anticipated to come out around June of this year.