Annual solar energy production in North Carolina jumped 36% in 2018, according to the latest government data — placing North Carolina as the No. 2 solar-producing state in the nation.
Data (page 54) from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirmed North Carolina's 36% growth, which significantly outpaced other leading solar states. By comparison, California's annual solar production rose 15%; Arizona's and Nevada's outputs each grew 10% in 2018.
"Duke Energy continues to connect more solar to the North Carolina energy grid and promote new customer programs in response to the state's 2017 solar law," said Stephen De May, Duke Energy's North Carolina president. "Working collaboratively with stakeholder groups, Duke Energy is promoting smart, cost-effective solar options for our customers."
At the end of2018, according to EIA, North Carolina produced 7.2 million MWh of solar generation — enough to power more than 600,000 homes. North Carolina was third in the nation for connecting new solar projects in 2018. Most solar energy produced in North Carolina is owned or purchased by Duke Energy.
Energy mix getting cleaner in the Carolinas
Duke Energy has 4 million customers in North and South Carolina. In the Carolinas, more than half of the energy produced comes from carbon-free resources including nuclear, hydropower and solar.
Since 2011, Duke Energy has shut down 30 coal-fired power plants in the Carolinas and will retire five additional coal-fired units in the next six years. Since 2005, the company has also reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 36% in the Carolinas, projecting a 53% reduction by 2025.
The company is also continuing to pursue battery storage, with a US$500 million investment slated over the next 10 years and projects already underway in the Asheville area.
Other North Carolina efforts to promote solar
Duke Energy owns and operates more than 35 solar facilities in North Carolina and has invested more than US$1 billion in renewable energy in the state.
The company also continues to introduce new solar programs for different types of customers. The company's US$62 million solar rebate program for residential, commercial and non-profit customers in North Carolina has helped 3,000 customers go solar in its first two years. Duke Energy has said that it would continue to offer these rebates over the next three years.
In 2018, Duke Energy connected more than 500 MW of new solar capacity — enough to power about 100,000 homes at peak output, while also launching a competitive bidding process for new solar capacity.
The process, being overseen by an independent administrator, seeks to add 680 MW of new solar capacity in 2019 — enough to power about 125,000 homes at peak output. This will ensure the best and most cost-effective projects are built to benefit customers in the Carolinas. Winning projects are expected to be named this spring.
In 2018, Duke Energy also became one of the few companies in the Carolinas to offer solar leasing to commercial customers. A subsidiary of the company will build, own and operate on-site solar facilities that will allow customers in North Carolina and South Carolina to access renewable energy without a large upfront investment.
For industrial customers, the company recently received an order from the North Carolina Utilities Commission for its Green Source Advantage program in North Carolina. This "green tariff" provides customers the flexibility to negotiate directly with solar developers to add more renewable energy to the grid, with no cost to other customer classes.