Duke Renewables aims to expand solar footprint

Duke Renewables aims to expand solar footprintDuke Energy Renewables summer acquisition of two Arizona solar farms is just the beginning of the company’s move into solar market.

“The acquisitions are our first in the American Southwest,” said Duke spokesman Greg Efthimiou. “We’re very excited to be expanding our footprint in solar.”

Duke is a registered utility provider on the East Coast, but started Duke Energy Renewables, the sustainable energy branch of its business, in 2007 when it began buying and developing wind farms, Efthimiou said. Since then, the renewables portion of Duke’s business has grown to account for nearly a quarter of its revenues.

The company has invested more than $1.75 billion in 10 wind farms throughout the country since then.

“We’re already committed to five projects with 770 megawatts on new wind power just in the next year,” Efthimiou said.

Duke ventured into solar in 2009. While it got started investing in the sunny energy resource later than in wind, it has approached solar acquisitions with the same aggressive veraciousness, Efthimiou said.

Duke now owns a 6-megawatt solar project in Orlando, Fla.; a 14-megawatt solar farm in San Antonio, Texas; and five 1-megawatt solar plants in North Carolina.

“We’ve been building up our portfolio, and we have plans to do a lot more,” he said.

Duke purchased the Ajo Solar Project in Pima County, Ariz., in August. Its 21,000 solar panels produce 5 megawatts of power.

Duke also bought the Bagdad Solar Project in Yavapai County, Ariz., in the summer. That solar farm’s 72,000 solar panels produce 15 megawatts of power.

The Arizona Public Service Company, an Arizona utility provider, is contracted to buy the power from Duke.

That pre-existing power-purchase agreement is one of the factors that attracted Duke to the two projects, Efthimiou said. He said the utility’s longevity in the area and solid finances gave Duke a sense of confidence required for investing in existing renewable projects.

“Our purchase of these two solar installations doubles our commitment to solar,” Efthimiou said.