Duke Energy Gets the Green Light for 'Mini Solar Plants' in North Carolina

Duke Energy Gets the Green Light for 'Mini Solar Plants' in North Carolina

Duke Energy will build as many as 400 "mini solar plants" in North Carolina on the rooftops of homes, schools, stores, warehouses and factories -- or on the grounds of those properties -- over the next two years to establish a solar distributed generation program.

The utility won permission from the North Carolina Utilities Commission last week to proceed with the plan that was first announced in June and then halved to its current size in the fall after critics called it too aggressive.

Duke has promised to invest as much as $50 million in the project. When fully online, the network is expected to be capable of supplying electricity to about 1,300 homes.

The utility will own and maintain the solar panels for the projected 25-year lifespan of the equipment. Duke also has rights to the electricity generated and will pay rent to property owners who serve as hosts for the panels. The rent for each site will be based on the size of the installation and the amount of electricity generated there.

In anticipation of a favorable decision from the commission, Duke put out a call in December for North Carolina customers interested in participating in the program, which is among the first of its kind in the U.S.

On Monday, Arizona Public Service, the largest utility in the state, announced that it is planning a similar project near Flagstaff. The $14.7 million pilot project is expected to involve 200 to 300 participants and generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

The Renewable Energy Standard in Arizona requires 15 percent of APS's generation to come from renewable resources by 2025.