Duke Energy Florida completes its first solar project in 750 MW plan

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Duke Energy Florida announced it completed construction of the Fort Green Renewable Energy Center, a 74.9 MW facility that will serve the utility’s Clean Energy Connection plan, which allows Duke customers to opt-in to sourcing a designated amount of capacity from the project on their monthly bill.

The facility was built on about 500 acres of land, consisting of 265,000 panels mounted on a fixed-tilt racking system. It is expected to produce enough power for roughly 23,000 homes at peak energy production.

Residents and small/medium businesses may join its new Clean Energy Connection “community” solar program. Applicants will be randomly selected to become subscribers to solar energy produced by the utility’s PV.

Under the program, customers can subscribe to kilowatt blocks of power, which are charged at $8.35/kW. The utility said a customer with an average usage of 1,000kWh a month could subscribe to about 5kW to cover their energy needs.

The bill credit rate tied to the solar production of a customer’s kW “block” will be $0.04/kWh for the first 36 months of the program, and then starting with the 37th month of continuous enrollment, the bill credit rate increases by 1.5% each year. This bill credit amount varies each month with the actual solar energy produced, meaning customer savings is tied to the successful production of the utility-owned solar facility.

Community solar offers an option to be connected with a carbon-free energy source for those who do not have a suitable roof space for PV. Generally, community solar projects are smaller than utility-scale plants, and are attached at the local distribution level, rather than to large-scale high voltage transmission infrastructure. This program, the Clean Energy Connection, supports the development and construction of Duke Energy Florida-owned solar, said the utility.

“Community solar” appears to be broadly defined in this instance, where the utility company remains sole owner-operator of the assets.  Rocky Mountain Institute offers a framework for the next generation of community solar projects that would be designed to support resilience and cost savings for community stakeholders.

The program sets aside 26 MW for income-qualified customers who participate in government subsidy programs or Duke Energy’s low-income energy efficiency program, Neighborhood Energy Saver. For these customers, the fixed monthly $9.03 credit per kW subscribed will always be higher than the fixed monthly $8.35 subscription fee per kW subscribed. The average subscription amount for income-qualified customers (5 kW) results in approximately $42/year in bill savings, said Duke.

Duke said it anticipates the Clean Energy Connection program to be allocated as follows: 486.85 MW to large commercial and industrial customers, 74.9 MW to local government customers, 161.25 MW to residential and small business customers and 26 MW to low-income customers. Each MW represents electrical power equal to 1 million watts, referring to the output capacity of the solar facility.

Duke Energy Florida has invested more than $2 billion in solar and expects to have 1.5GW of emission-free generation and 5 million PV modules installed by 2024. Currently, the company has over 400MW of solar assets in operation.

“Bringing cleaner resources onto the grid is important to our customers and our company,” said Melissa Seixas, Duke Energy Florida president. “By subscribing to the Clean Energy Connection program and supporting solar sites like this one, our customers are joining a community that is helping drive Florida to a cleaner energy future.”

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