Bruce Henderson | Charlotte Observer
Duke Energy said Monday it will invest $500 million to acquire three large solar farms in North Carolina and buy power from more new projects.
Duke had solicited proposals in February for 300 megawatts in new solar capacity to help meet North Carolina’s green-energy mandate and diversify its portfolio. The purchases announced Monday will total 278 megawatts.
The company will acquire and build three solar farms in Bladen, Duplin and Wilson counties. Among them is a 65-megawatt array being developed by Strata Solar that Duke says will be the largest east of the Mississippi River.
Duke has signed agreements to buy power from five other projects, totaling 150 megawatts, in Bladen, Richmond, Scotland, Cleveland and Beaufort counties.
“This is Duke Energy’s largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” Rob Caldwell, Duke’s senior vice president for distributed generation, said in a statement.
Duke will need N.C. Utilities Commission approval, for the three solar farms it will acquire, to transfer state permits from the developers. They are expected to be operating by the end of 2015.
No Utilities Commission approval is needed for the power-purchase agreements.
Duke had previously signed 33 other agreements, for projects totaling 109 megawatts, in North Carolina this year.
Duke’s request for proposals in February had specified projects that are larger than 5 megawatts and in advanced stages of development.
The Utilities Commission is reviewing how utilities pay green-energy developers for the electricity they generate.
The review focuses on projects smaller than 5 megawatts, which currently are eligible for standard rates. Power purchase agreements for larger projects, including those announced Monday, are individually negotiated.
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