Duke Wants to Rent Rooftops for Solar Power

Duke Wants to Rent Rooftops for Solar Power

North Carolina businesses, homeowners and schools would be able to rent their rooftops to Duke Energy Carolinas for solar power installations, if the utility's plan wins regulatory approval.

The energy company is proposing to invest $50 million over a two-year period in as many as 425 solar energy arrays atop the roofs of homes, schools, stores and factories — or on the ground at those properties — to establish a solar distributed generation program.

The plan, originally proposed in June and halved to it current parameters this fall, awaits approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission. The commission's final order is anticipated sometime before January 31 and in the meantime, Duke has put out a call for North Carolina customers interested in participating.

To be eligible, the customer must own the home or property, the roof under consideration must be no more than 5 years old, and the area of the roof or the ground being offered as a host site cannot be shaded from the sun by trees or other obstructions.

Under the arrangement, the utility company would install, own, operate and maintain all equipment related to the solar array. The company, rather than the home- or property owner, would also use and own the electricity produced. The customer receives the rent paid for using the rooftop or land, and the compensation is based on the size of the installation.

The program, which is expected to generate eight megawatts of electricity, would add about eight cents a month to the average residential bill, 42 cents a month to commercial users and $4.25 a month to industrial customers, Duke told the Charlotte Observer when the energy company cut its proposal  — and the pass-along costs — in October.

The commission's public staff, which represents consumers, and some industrial and retail customers and solar advocacy groups objected to the original proposal. Variously they said the first plan was too aggressive, could impede development of cheaper forms of renewable energy, would raise rates of nonresidential customers and exclude non-utility solar power producers.

The Charlotte Business Journal recently reported how the scaled down plan appears to shaping up with regulators and others.

Duke Energy Corporation's Chairman, President and CEO Jim Rogers touched on the plan last week, describing it to broad audience, while speaking about "Building Bridges to a Low-Carbon Future" at the Virtual Energy Forum.  

Duke Energy Corporation has 4 million customers, serving an estimated 11 million people, in North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. In North Carolina, the company must satisfy 12.5 percent of customers' power needs with renewable energy or through energy efficiency by 2021.