April 11, 2022

Here comes the sun: Switch flipped on 195-acre Surry solar facility in Surry County

As Duke Energy prepares to seek bids for a fresh round of major solar projects in North Carolina, the company said Monday a newly completed 195-acre operation in Surry County has begun power generation.

The 22.6-megawatt Stony Knoll Solar operation in Dobson includes 76,600 panels capable of powering the equivalent of 5,000 homes.

The project is owned and operated by Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, a non-regulated subsidiary of Charlotte-based Duke Energy.

It is one of a half-dozen utility-scale solar projects totaling 270 megawatts awarded to Duke through a process developed with passage of renewable energy legislation by the N.C. General Assembly and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2017.

The guidelines allow Duke to compete with other bidders to operate solar facilities that supply power to the company’s grid.

Eight bidders from outside the company also were chosen for solar projects and will sell the power they produce to Duke.

In all, the 14 projects are expected to generate more than 600 megawatts of power.

Duke Energy says its 40 existing North Carolina solar plants have a combined 4,200 megawatts of solar capacity, enough to serve more than 800,000 homes.

Solar accounts for about 7% of the company’s power.

“In addition to our many renewable energy projects across the nation, North Carolina continues to be fertile ground for solar power,” Chris Fallon, president of Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, said in the company’s announcement of the Stony Knoll operation, which is the largest solar facility in Surry County.

North Carolina is fourth in the nation for overall solar energy.

San Diego, Calif.-based SOLV Energy handled the design and construction of the new Surry County plant.

Duke said last week that after approval from the N.C. Utilities Commission, it hopes to request bids as early as next month for another 1,300 megawatts of solar projects.

Legislation passed in 2021 requires that 45% of new solar generation included in Duke’s plan for meeting state emissions goals — due to the utilities commission next month — be purchased from producers outside the company.

Under the law, the utilities commission is required to take “all reasonable steps” to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from electricity-producing facilities 70% from 2005 levels by 2030 and reach “carbon-neutral” status by 2050.

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