Duke Energy has announced two new solar programs for North Carolina customers. The programs are a solar rebate program for consumers and a tender for utility scale solar projects. Duke Energy, headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina is an electric power company with assets in the United States, Canada and Latin America.
Duke Energy’s solar rebate program allows customers rebates of US 60 cents per watt for solar energy systems with less than 11 kilowatt (kW) capacity. Solar energy systems with 11 kW or greater will be eligible for a maximum rebate of US $6,000. Customers will also have an option to lease solar panels. Duke Energy solar rebate program is designed to encourage their customers to move to renewable energy.
Duke Energy also announced plans to tender for solar projects with 680 MW capacity. Proposals must be for 1 to 80 MW capacity for each facility. Each facility must be placed in service prior to January 1, 2021. Duke Energy’s goal is to continue to increase utility scale solar power in North Carolina. North Carolina is second only to California is solar power capacity.
Why is Duke Energy pushing solar energy? North Carolina has significant solar resources. Solar energy is cheaper than coal, petroleum and nuclear power. Natural gas, hydropower and wind energy are cheaper ($/kWh) than solar energy. However, North Carolina has limited undeveloped hydropower and wind energy resources. Currently, natural gas is the cheapest fuel to generate electric power. However, natural gas generates greenhouse gases. Natural gas, like all fossil fuels is not a renewable resource and the price can quickly escalate when demand exceeds supply.
Residential solar with battery storage allows Duke Energy to tap into excess power capacity from residents during periods of peak energy demand. The excess power allows Duke Energy to optimize North Carolina’s power grid, reducing operating costs, which in turn will result in low electricity prices for consumers. In my opinion, Duke Energy’s solar energy plan is an excellent example of a utility developing a state’s renewable energy resources.