Duke Energy is investing $500 million in solar power generation in North Carolina.
Three new large-scale solar facilities will be built in Bladen, Wilson, and Duplin Counties. The 65 megawatt facility in Duplin will be the largest solar plant east of the Mississippi.
Due to a state law passed in 2007, Duke and other utilities must source at least 12.5 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021.
“We choose solar today because solar is the cheapest renewable energy certificate available to us,” said Duke Energy Vice President Rob Caldwell.
Duke’s strategy is to own and operate its own solar energy production by building large-scale facilities. Other states have allowed more power generation to come from individual home solar operations.
“It’s a banner day in North Carolina if you’re a large-scale solar developer and you’re a part of this team,” said Steve Kalland, the director of the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. “I don’t know that we’ve seen anything like this in the eastern part of the United State, anywhere.”
Next year, the Legislature is likely to debate and possibly change many of the renewable energy rules it passed in 2007.
“I would say that North Carolina remains today the leader in the southeast and one of the leaders in the country, at this point, in solar development,” said Kalland. “The big issue to keep an eye on is if we can hold that position. There’s a lot of policy in North Carolina that is up for discussion in the next year.”
Duke’s three new solar power facilities should be up and running by the end of 2015.