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With 2 new solar projects, Duke Energy will sell electricity to itself

 Duke Energy workers install photovoltaic panels at the Speedway Solar project in Cabarrus County last fall.
Duke Energy
Duke Energy workers install photovoltaic panels at the Speedway Solar project in Cabarrus County last fall.

Two new North Carolina solar farms owned by a subsidiary of Duke Energy have begun generating electricity. And for the first time, they're selling it to the company's regulated consumer side.

Duke Energy has both an unregulated commercial division as well as state-regulated consumer utilities - the ones that supply electricity to homes and businesses. The new solar projects in Cleveland and Cabarrus counties are owned by the unregulated side, Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions. It develops solar and wind power for commercial customers and other utilities.

Now Duke's own consumer businesses are buying the energy, too.

A 2017 state law required competitive bidding for new solar projects for five years. The process is managed by an independent administrator working for regulators, called Accion Group. Duke E nergy spokesperson Randy Wheeless said these two projects were approved in the first round of bidding. One more remains in development.

The law allows Duke Energy's unregulated subsidiary to compete for the right to supply solar power to t he compan y 's s consumer utilities.

The two new projects are:

  • The Broad River Solar farm in Boiling Springs, in Cleveland County, about 50 miles west of Charlotte. It will generate 50 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 12,500 homes.
  • The 22.6-megawatt Speedway Solar farm in Cabarrus County.  It's on about 185 acres in the town of Midland and can power about 5,000 homes. 

Both facilities have 20-year contracts to deliver electricity to Duke Energy's consumer utilities, including Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress.

Altogether, Duke Energ y now has more than 40 solar farms in North Carolina and more are on the way. About 30 of those are owned by Duke Energy Sustainable Solutions, primarily in eastern North Carolina, Wheeless said.

Duke E nergy is adding solar as it tries to reduce its use of fossil fuels to help fight climate change. Those goals include cutting CO2 emissions from electricity generation in half by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Energy generation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in North Carolina, accounting for about 35%.

Copyright 2022 WFAE

David Boraks is a WFAE weekend host and a producer for "Charlotte Talks." He's a veteran Charlotte-area journalist who has worked part-time at WFAE since 2007 and for other outlets including DavidsonNews.net and The Charlotte Observer.