Duke Energy plans to almost double the amount of solar energy its North Carolina utilities use by the end of next year. The utility has about 350 megawatts of solar in the state right now, the size of a small natural gas or coal plant.
“Riverbend, which a lot of people may know, up in Gaston County is like 420 megawatts,” says Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless, as a way to compare.
Now Duke plans to almost double its capacity. The company will either purchase energy or facilities that other companies are building in the state. If it does buy the solar farms outright, that would substantially increase how much solar Duke, itself, owns. Right now, the company buys all but about three percent of its solar from other companies.
Wheeless says part of the reason Duke is moving now has to do with tax incentives. State and federal credits are both set to expire soon after 2015, and by bringing them in now, Wheeless says Duke can still take advantage.
“We’re very excited about it,” he says. “We think we can bring more renewables onto our system and still keep rates below the national average. “
The announcement puts Duke ahead of the amount of renewables it has projected it would have in its system, although solar will still only make up a low single-digit percentage of Duke’s total power.