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Duke Energy Plans to Own and Operate Solar Power Generation at up to 850 North Carolina Sites

Duke Energy Carolinas is proposing a $100 million plan to install electricity generating solar panels at up to 850 North Carolina sites including homes, schools, stores and factories.

Last Friday, the company filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission asking for approval to implement this solar distributed generation program. Distributed generation is energy created close to where it is used, rather than being produced in large power plants and transported to customers over power lines.

"We believe an initiative of this scope and scale will help us meet the requirement of North Carolina's new Renewable and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (REPS)," said Keith Trent, group executive and chief strategy, policy and regulatory officer. "This program also will enable us to evaluate the role of distributed generation on our system, and gain experience in owning and operating renewable energy resources."

If the program is approved by regulators, Duke Energy Carolinas would spend two years installing approximately 20 megawatts of distributed solar generation on rooftops of customer businesses and homes or on ground sites within the company's North Carolina service area.

Solar power has to be converted from direct to alternating current. Once that's done, Duke Energy Carolinas customers will benefit from more than 16 megawatts of power, enough energy to serve more than 2,600 homes.

Duke Energy Carolinas would own and operate the equipment and the power produced by each installation would be used to serve the utility's customers. Customers who agree to place solar panels at their location would be rewarded based on the size of the installation and the amount of energy it produces.

The company plans to recover its $100 million investment through North Carolina's new REPS cost recovery mechanism. The company estimates that, over its life, the program will increase the average customer's bill by no more than 25 cents a month. The average customer uses about 1000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month.

In 2007, the company supported the development of the REPS. It requires the utility to satisfy 12.5 percent of its customers' power needs with renewables or energy efficiency by 2021. The new law has specific provisions for solar energy. Beginning in 2010, 0.02 percent of the electricity sold to customers in the state, or an equivalent amount of energy, must be produced by solar energy resources. That requirement grows to 0.2 percent in 2018 and thereafter.

In addition to this proposal, the company is purchasing solar power. Recently, Duke Energy Carolinas announced it would buy approximately 16 megawatts of energy from the nation's largest photovoltaic solar farm, to be built by SunEdison in Davidson County, N.C. Once operational in late 2010, the farm will supply enough energy to power more than 2,600 homes.

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