Duke building its first large utility solar farm in North Carolina

Duke Energy RenewableDuke Energy Renewables is building a 12.5 megawatt solar farm in North Carolina. It’s Duke Energy Renewables first large utility-scale solar project in the state.

Duke Energy Renewables has a 15-year contract in place for the power that will be produced at the Washington White Post Solar project. “It’s going to be sold to a municipal entity that will sell to other towns in North Carolina,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Tammie McGee. Power from the project will be sold directly to the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency, which services 32 towns in the Central coastal region of North Carolina.

Duke Energy Renewables is a commercial business unit of Duke Energy. While the parent company is a utility that services most of North Carolina, since it merged with Progress Energy earlier in 2012, Duke Energy Renewables is a energy provider that sells electricity to utilities throughout the country, McGee said.

The Washington White project is on 85 acres leased in Beaufort County, North Carolina. The project, being developed by SunEnergy1 is expected to reach completion and commercial operation by the end of 2012. 

Overall its Duke’s 12th solar project in North Carolina. “We have had seven utility scale solar projects in North Carolina, but they’ve all been very small compared to this,” McGee said. The Washington White project is more than double the size of Duke’s largest operational project in the state, the 5 megawatt Murfreesboro Solar Project. Duke has six 1 megawatt facilities, she added.

In other states, like in the U.S. Southwest, Duke’s renewables arm has purchased much larger solar—and for that matter, wind—projects, like its 15 megawatt Bagdad Project in Arizona. And it has over 1,000 megawatts of wind power projects.

The Washington White could ultimately be a larger project, according to McGee. “We haven’t made any firm plans about that yet. That will probably be a 2013 decision,” she said.

Duke is starting to build larger projects in North Carolina to meet needs. “It’s really helping municipalities and coops meet their obligations under their renewable portfolio standards,” McGee said.

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