Midland solar field pumping electricity into the Duke grid

Mark Plemmons

One of Duke Energy’s newest solar plant projects was open to the media for a tour Friday morning in Midland.

Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, a nonregulated commercial brand of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), began commercial operation of two major solar facilities earlier this year:

The 50-megawatt (MW) Broad River Solar power plant in Cleveland County.

The 22.6-MW Speedway Solar power plant in Cabarrus County.

“Even with the 2021 challenges of COVID-19 and supply chain constraints, our team remained focused and delivered these projects on time,” said Chris Fallon, president of Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions. “We could not have completed these projects without the support of our vendors and the people of Cleveland and Cabarrus counties.”

The facility’s design, procurement of inverters, balance of plant systems and construction of the project were performed by SOLV Energy. The solar power generated by both projects will be delivered through 20-year power purchase agreements. Together, the projects can power about 15,000 homes during a year.

“We’re at Speedway Solar here in Cabarrus County, one of 45 Duke Energy facilities in North Carolina,” said Randy Wheeless, a Duke spokesperson. “On a summer afternoon, about 14% of the energy generated will be from solar energy. These are important. There are going to be more coming in the future.”

Wheeless said solar and renewable projects will increase. “We know that we are going to at least be doubling our renewable energy in North Carolina. Right now we have 45 and we probably buy from another couple hundred facilities, so there are going to be a lot more. I think there are going to be more in the Charlotte region, maybe not Mecklenburg County, but the counties surrounding it.”

North Carolina is fourth in the nation for overall solar energy. The outlook is promising for more solar energy in the future with the passage of the Energy Solutions for North Carolina (HB951) law in 2021. The states ahead of North Carolina are much larger in area: California, Texas and Florida.

“Solar power is a major focus for Duke Energy as we target 70% carbon reduction by 2030 in North Carolina and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 under HB951,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president. “We expect solar to play a leading role in our clean energy future.”

Why the Midland project

The Speedway Solar Plant’s location on Wallace Road and Bethel Avenue Extension in Midland had some advantages over some other potential sites.

“There was already some transmission lines coming through here, so we didn’t have to spend so much to connect to the energy grid. Also it was a very good site, flat, level, kind of remote, but not that far from population centers like Charlotte and Midland, some other towns,” Wheeless said.

Speedway Solar has some of the latest technology to be more efficient.

“One thing interesting about Speedway Solar is it has tracking solar panels,” Wheeless said. “So the solar panels will move during the day to track the sun. You get about 30% more electricity because of that. It actually helps. Right now it’s facing sun, but in another end of the day it might be facing the complete opposite way.”

A leader in renewable energy

Duke Energy is leading the largest clean-energy transformation in the United States. It maintains more than 4,100 MW of solar power on its energy grid in North Carolina, which could power about 800,000 homes and businesses at peak output.

The company also operates more than 40 solar facilities in the state. With nuclear, hydro and renewable energy, more than half of North Carolina’s energy mix is carbon-free.

Duke Energy Sustainable Solution

Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions is a nonregulated commercial brand of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) — a Fortune 150 company and one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S. — headquartered in Charlotte.

Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions is a leader in sustainable energy, helping large enterprises reduce power costs, lower emissions and increase resiliency. The team provides wind, solar, resilient backup power and managed energy services to over 1,000 projects across the U.S., with a total electric capacity of more than 5,100 megawatts of nonregulated renewable energy.

Duke Energy said it is executing an aggressive clean energy strategy to create a smarter energy future for its customers and communities — with goals of at least a 50% carbon reduction by 2030 and net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The company is a top U.S. renewable energy provider, on track to operate or purchase 16,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity by 2025.

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