Duke Energy to buy power from Davidson County solar farm

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

CHARLOTTE ó Duke Energy Carolinas announced Wednesday that it will purchase the entire electricity output of the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar farm, to be built in Davidson County.
Under an agreement signed with SunEdison, customers of Duke Energy Carolinas are expected to receive more than 16 megawatts of power from the solar farm beginning no later than Dec. 31, 2010. The agreement runs for 20 years.
SunEdison LLC describes itself as North America’s largest solar energy services provider and operates around the world. SunEdison provides solar-generated energy at or below current retail rates to a diverse client base of commercial, municipal and utility customers.
SunEdison did not give a more specific location in Davidson for its solar energy facility.
The company said its PV solar farm will consist of 36 individual solar PV facilities located at a single site. SunEdison expects to start construction on the project in the third quarter of 2009 and begin commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2010.
“We said we wanted to lead the way in the development of more renewable energy and we meant it,” Keith Trent, Duke Energy Carolinas group executive and chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer, said in a press release. “Today’s agreements, coupled with the other significant initiatives across our company, clearly demonstrate that renewable energy has an important place in our power generation portfolio.”
A North Carolina law passed last year requires Duke and other utilities to get 12.5 percent of their energy from renewable sources such as solar by 2021. Solar power has to account for two-tenths of 1 percent of company sales by 2018.
The SunEdison agreements are a result of a request for proposals Duke Energy issued in April 2007, the first project of its kind in North Carolina, Duke said in the press release.
Duke Energy is also advancing plans for its own “distributed solar generation program.” Distributed generation is energy created close to where it is used, rather than being produced in large power plants and sent to customers over the power grid.
The company plans a filing with the N.C. Utilities Commission in the near future that will seek approval for the program and the authority to recover its investment. Under the plan, Duke Energy would install and operate distributed solar generation on customer rooftops and other spaces.
Duke Energy is also adding wind power to its generation portfolio. In April 2008, a wind farm in Indiana began supplying 100 megawatts of power to Duke Energy customers.
In 2007, Duke Energy Generation Services entered the wind energy business and expects to have its first projects (about 180 megawatts) online later this year. Other wind development projects of more than 3,000 megawatts are planned in eight different western and southwestern states.
Photovoltaic ó a combination of “photo,” which means light, and “voltaic,” or electricity ó means the use of sunlight, or photons, to generate electricity.
Most solar photovoltaic systems use solar panels to create solar electricity. Photons from sunlight elevate electrons into a higher state of energy, creating electricity.
Duke Energy says in one full year of production, 16.1 megawatts of photovoltaic solar power offsets 32.3 million pounds of C02.
That is the equivalent of taking 3,168 cars off the road for one year, the company said.
The amount of solar power also produces about 28 million kilowatt hours, the equivalent of powering 2,647 homes for one year, Duke Energy said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.