Duke Energy will build between 100 and 400 electricity-generating mini solar power plants throughout North Carolina over the next two years in one of the first large-scale initiatives of its kind in the U.S., CEO Jim Rogers said today.
“Solar and wind are both going to be key parts of our strategy going forward,” Rogers told reporters following the company’s annual meeting.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Wednesday issued a decision allowing Duke Energy to proceed with its $50-million proposal to install solar panels on the roofs and grounds of homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and industrial plants, starting later this year.
Collectively, the solar sites will generate enough electricity to power 1,300 homes.
The electricity will flow directly from the solar sites to the electrical grid that serves all customers.
Duke Energy’s solar initiative will be among the nation’s first and largest demonstrations of distributed generation, in which electricity is produced at numerous micro generating sites rather than at a large, centralized, traditional power plant.
“We are redefining our boundaries. We’re looking ahead and we’re looking around the corner,” Rogers told shareholders attending the meeting. “We believe the future is a low-carbon world. The 21st century mission of our company is to decarbonize our energy supply and provide universal access to energy efficiency.”
Duke Energy will own and maintain the solar panels during their expected 25-year lifespan. The company also will own the electricity generated.
It will pay a rental fee to property owners who host the panels for use of their roofs or land, based on the size of the installation and amount of electricity generated at any given site.
The solar plan is one of several renewable and clean-energy initiatives announced by Duke Energy in the past 12 months, including:
• The purchase of the entire electricity output (16 megawatts) from what will be one of the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar farms, to be built in 2009-2010 in Davidson County, N.C.
• The opening of three new electricity-generating wind farms in Texas and Wyoming.
• A plan to build two more wind farms in Wyoming in 2009.
• The potential development of 5,000 additional megawatts of wind energy in 14 states over the next several years.
• An agreement with Wal-Mart to supply wind-generated electricity to up to 15 percent of the retail chain’s 360 stores and other buildings in Texas.
• The creation of a joint venture with AREVA to build power plants fueled by wood waste – the first “biopower” (biomass to electricity) partnership in the U.S. between two major energy companies.
• The purchase of electricity generated by combusting methane naturally emitted from decaying garbage at two large landfills in North Carolina and South Carolina.
• Partnerships with General Motors and several other automakers to help lay the groundwork for the deployment of vehicle-charging stations – critical for the large-scale launch of plug-in electric cars and trucks.
• Major energy efficiency programs to help Duke Energy’s 4 million customers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky use less electricity and save money.
• An investment of at least $1 billion to improve the efficiency of its substations, power lines and electric and gas meters, using advanced digital “smart grid” technology.