City of Charlotte, Duke Energy agree to milestone power contract

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After nabbing Google and Cisco as early adopters of the company’s Green Source Advantage program (GSA), Duke Energy has now landed it’s first municipal deal under the program, agreeing to a 35 MW power purchase agreement with the city of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The power purchase agreement (PPA), approved by the city council in late February, makes Charlotte the most populous city in the U.S.  to acquire large-scale solar through a green tariff. The project will be built in Iredell County by Carolina Solar Energy and Ecoplexus and is expected to be fully operational by 2022. The energy purchased by the city will represent a 25% reduction in annual municipal carbon emissions.

“Based upon the current regulatory environment, the GSA program was really our best option,” energy and sustainability coordinator for the city of Charlotte, Heather Bolick, told pv magazine. “Duke, as well as our American Cities Climate Challenge partners Rocky Mountain Institute and World Resources Institute brought us up to speed really quickly on the ins and outs of the current regulatory environment and this program.”

A greater reliance on renewable energy, as well as efforts to reduce carbon emissions are goals that the city of Charlotte have been working on for some time. In June of 2018, the city passed a measure setting a goal of carbon neutrality among municipal operations by 2030. In December of that same year, Charlotte was accepted into the American Cities Climate Challenge, which came with a commitment to install 6 MW of on-site solar at municipal buildings across the city.

As time went on and the state’s public utilities commission approved the GSA, city officials came to the realization that Charlotte’s carbon reduction goals would be better met through that avenue. It also became apparent, according to Bolick, that housing 6 MW of solar on municipal buildings was not as feasible nor effective as development.

The city has not given up on on-site municipal solar in light of this PPA with Duke, as Bolick shared that solar arrays are currently being installed on the roofs of two police stations. To date, the city has installed 714 kW of solar on six facilities, with those two police station projects representing an additional 117 kW.

The deal with Duke, while an impressive beginning, represents the first step in a larger journey for the city, as Bolick shared that Charlotte and the surrounding communities may look to sign more GSA contracts in the future.

“I’m a parent. I’m a citizen of Charlotte. I want the city to be as vibrant in the future as it is now. Climate change is real and I’m hoping that this project helps to reverse course, even a little bit.”