Sun shines on NC power bills with $500 million investment

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service-NC

* Related: Solar farm coming to Derby area

FAYETTEVILLE — North Carolina could come closer to living up to its solar-power potential with a $500 million investment from Duke Energy.

Graphic courtesy SEIA North Carolina ranked third in the nation in 2013 for solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Graphic courtesy SEIA
North Carolina ranked third in the nation in 2013 for solar installations, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

The corporation said this week it will construct three solar farms to generate 128 megawatts of electricity – in Elm City, Fayetteville and Warsaw.

John Wilson, research director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said greater availability of solar ultimately could stabilize consumer electric bills.

“The price for these projects doesn’t go up. There’s no fuel cost increase with the sun shining,” he said. “Then if prices of other fuels go up, the customers will be insulated from price hikes.”

Duke Energy also announced it would purchase 150 megawatts of solar power from independent developers. Last year, 335 megawatts of solar capacity was installed in North Carolina, ranking it third in the nation and generating enough electricity for more than 31,000 homes.

Stephen Smith, executive director of SACE, agreed with Wilson’s assertion that solar growth could impact the bottom line for utility customers.

“They will serve as a stabilizing effect on fuel prices for North Carolina,” he said. “So, the benefits will come more and more into the future, as we see these solar facilities run just any time the sun shines.”

State law dictates that North Carolina’s electric power suppliers meet an increasing amount of their customers’ energy needs with a combination of renewable-energy resources. The law was passed in 2008, and Wilson said Duke’s announcement is a testament to its success.

“This action by Duke is also the culmination of many years of implementation of North Carolina’s energy law,” Wilson said, “which was a far-sighted effort by the North Carolina Legislature.”

Today, North Carolina has a total of 627 megawatts of solar energy installed, powering the equivalent of more than 68,000 homes. Last year, $787 million in public and private funds were invested in solar power for home and business use.

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News

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