The Carolinas’ big solar day: 14 utility-scale projects selected for construction by Duke Energy

Halifax Solar Large

Employee Shawn Dwyer (371846) standing next to truck in front of solar panels at Halifax Solar Facility. Roanoke Rapids, NC. North Carolina.

Bringing more cost-effective solar energy to the Carolinas, 14 utility-scale projects have been selected during an independently judged bidding process – part of a 2017 comprehensive renewable energy law. Based on an independent evaluation process, Duke Energy will produce or purchase a total of 602 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy from projects under the North Carolina’s Competitive Procurement of Renewable Energy (CPRE) program.

According to independent administrator Accion Group, customers will see savings of around $375 million over the 20-year contract period versus the company’s Avoided Cost – the price at which many solar contracts had been set prior to the CPRE program.

“There was robust interest in the CPRE program, and the selected projects will provide 20 years of cost-effective energy to the Duke Energy system. Given the response, we are expecting the next phase of the program to also bring cost savings to customers,” said Harry Judd of the Accion Group, which independently administered the solicitation process.

With the winning projects selected, Duke Energy and the winning bidders will execute contracts for the projects over the next few months. Once the contracting process is complete, Duke Energy and Accion Group will finalize a report of all projects to be filed with the NCUC around June 2019.

Most projects are targeted to be online around the end of 2020. However, the dates may vary depending upon local approvals and any construction delays.

Selection process

The 14 projects represent the most competitive of the 78 that were submitted when bidding opened last July. The process used was approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) to select projects that would deliver the greatest cost and system benefits to customers.

There were 10 projects selected from North Carolina and four projects from South Carolina. Two projects selected included battery storage with the solar facility. They were not Duke Energy projects.

Duke Energy was awarded six projects totaling about 270 MW – representing almost 45 percent of the total awarded. With 40 solar projects already in North Carolina, the final results showcase Duke Energy’s competitiveness at building solar power plants.

Duke Energy self-developed projects selected:

  • Duke Energy Carolinas: 69-MW – Catawba County, N.C.
  • Duke Energy Carolinas: 25-MW – Gaston County, N.C.
  • Duke Energy Renewables: 50-MW – Cleveland County, N.C.
  • Duke Energy Renewables: 22.6-MW – Surry County, N.C.
  • Duke Energy Renewables: 22.6-MW – Cabarrus/Stanly counties, N.C.

Winning utility acquisition project selected:

  • Duke Energy Progress: 80-MW – Onslow County, N.C.

More about CPRE program

One of the provisions of 2017’s “Competitive Energy Solutions for North Carolina” law was a process that would create a competitive bidding structure for solar energy.

Projects can be built anywhere on the Duke Energy system in North Carolina or South Carolina. The bids can come from any company, including Duke Energy, and can be in the form of power purchase agreements (PPA), utility self-developed facilities or utility asset acquisitions.

“Duke Energy companies will complete six of the 14 winning projects – a strong reflection of how competitive we are in the open market at building renewable energy projects,” added Caldwell.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on PowerSwitch 6, Mosaic’s latest residential solar financing innovation

solar loan

Mosaic is synonymous with residential solar loans by this point and is celebrating its six years in the game with yet another innovative financing option: PowerSwitch 6. This new financing vehicle bundles a few features that will benefit prospective solar customers while improving solar installers’ cash flow, processing and customer acquisition costs.

The PowerSwitch 6 suite offers two loan structures—PowerSwitch CHOICE and PowerSwitch PLUS. PowerSwitch CHOICE is the classic Mosaic loan program, ideal for customers looking to add solar or solar and batteries to their home and take advantage of the 30 percent Federal tax credit to pay down their loan during the first 18 months. The new loan structure, PowerSwitch PLUS, provides a loan amortization schedule designed for customers who don’t expect to receive a tax credit or who want to re-roof or make other energy efficiency improvements on their home at the same time as adding solar or solar and batteries, with payments reassessed at 18 months to reward any principal repayments.

PowerSwitch 6 features

• Household income: Homeowners may use verifiable total household income when it is needed to qualify for the loan.

• Daily funding: Mosaic now has faster funding, cutting the time between the customer qualifying for the loan and the installer receiving the funding to 1-2 business days after submitting milestone evidence.

• Early disbursements: Qualified contractors can now receive final loan disbursement at the time of installation, improving cash flow.

• Simple milestones: Easy milestone evidence for qualified installers simplifies how to validate that disbursements should take place, regardless of which jurisdiction the customer is in.

• Soft credit checks: Contractors can prequalify homeowners early in the process, checking their ability to qualify for financing without negatively impacting their credit score, improving sales teams’ time management.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on new ‘Triple Option Loan’ for rooftop solar projects via EnerBank


National consumer lender that specializes in home improvement loans, EnerBank USA,  announced a new Triple Option Loan for contractors to offer homeowners who are installing solar panels and expect to receive income tax incentives, rebates, and/or other significant payments. The new loan features a 12- or 18-month no-payment period and three re-amortizations of principal and interest over the life of the loan, providing homeowners the ultimate flexibility in choosing how they want to pay for their projects.

How it works

During the 12- or 18-month no-payment period, customers are not required to make payments on the loan. If the entire principal amount is paid off before the expiration of the no-payment period, all accrued interest is waived. After the no-payment period, the loan is re-amortized, followed by two more re-amortization events each May of the following years. This allows homeowners the option to apply rebates, bonuses or tax refunds to reduce the amount of their monthly loan payment.

“The Triple Option Loan gives tremendous flexibility for homeowners to pay off the principal of their loans or to reduce their monthly payments,” said Charlie Knadler, president and CEO of EnerBank. “Because the loan is re-amortized several times, homeowners have an extended period to apply bulk payments to the loan compared to other loan options.”

And, with the new Triple Option Loan, contractors have an additional choice in financing options they can offer their customers, helping them grow their businesses in the process.

“When contractors provide payment options for home improvement projects, they can achieve higher close rates, increase project size and grow their sales,” said Knadler. “Many home improvement contractors have seen sales increases of 30 percent or more. Offering payment options gives their customers more choices and greater spending power to achieve their home improvement dreams.”

roof top reportDownload the new Residential Rooftop Report to heat up your solar sales

The Residential Rooftop Report for the first quarter of 2019 is now available for download. The theme is “Heating Up Sales,” and we’ve teamed up with report sponsor Aurora Solar to examine ways for residential solar installation companies to lower customer acquisition costs, close more leads and overall run a more streamlined, efficient local solar business. Just fill out the form below to access your free report.

— Solar Builder magazine

RFP news: Bid for 12 commercial solar projects in Southwest Virginia totaling 2.73 MW

solar RFP

The Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia is seeking bids for 12 solar projects totaling 2.73 MW of energy generation as part of its Commercial-Scale Group Purchase Program. The projects to be developed on businesses, nonprofits and local government properties across Lee, Scott, Tazewell, Washington and Wise counties are part of the Solar Workgroup’s goal to connect building owners and solar companies to develop cost-effective solar projects. The installations will both help participating building owners save money as well as serve as “ambassador” projects to demonstrate the benefits of the growing solar industry.

“This request for proposals is an illustration of not only the strong potential for solar in Southwest Virginia, but also the hard work of the Solar Workgroup to facilitate the growth of the solar industry in our region,” said Chelsea Barnes, New Economy Program Manager for Appalachian Voices, a co-convener of the workgroup.

The request for proposals (RFP) is available for download here.

This is the second RFP the group has issued for solar projects in less than a year. The first round in late 2018 included six projects totaling 1.5 megawatts and was awarded to NCI Inc., of Richmond, Va. The projects included in this new round include four installations for the town of Pennington Gap, and a carport and rooftop installation for the iconic Western Front Hotel in St. Paul, among others.

“Pennington Gap is excited to be in this program and taking advantage of solar power. We feel this is another great opportunity to create some untapped savings that we can pass along to our citizens,” said town manager Keith Harless.

“Hospitality that celebrates the region’s history, natural resources and friendly people will play a big role in the new economy. The Western Front Hotel is excited to participate in this proven and cost-effective energy technology and to encourage other private, civic and commercial enterprises to do the same,” said Hal Craddock with the development group Creative Boutique Hotels and the Western Front Hotel.

The Solar Workgroup focuses on the seven counties in Southwest Virginia that have historically relied on coal with a goal to use the growth of a locally rooted solar industry as an economic catalyst. The jurisdictions in which the proposed projects are located are also currently working to achieve SolSmart designation, a U.S. Department of Energy program that signifies to the industry that Southwest Virginia is open for solar business.

Proposals are due by May 21.

The Solar Workgroup will conduct site visits on April 11-12 and hold a mandatory pre-bid meeting on April 12, which may be attended in person or via webinar. Contact Austin Counts by April 5 at to RSVP for the site visits and to obtain the pre-bid meeting location. Register to attend the pre-bid meeting webinar here.

— Solar Builder magazine

Four ways local solar projects can benefit cities

WGL solar project

At a solar project ribbon cutting ceremony, WGL Energy joined DC Mayor Muriel Bowser and project partners to commemorate the completion of a 11.8 megawatt solar system project with the DC Department of General Services (DC DGS). The DC DGS solar project is among the largest municipal onsite solar energy projects in the country. WGL Energy president Sanjiv Mahan pictured to the left of Mayor Bowser. (Photo: Business Wire)

The article originally appeared on WRI’s Insights blog. 

When a city decides to transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, headlines follow. But the work has only just begun. Cities have many options for generating and purchasing renewable electricity, each of which comes with distinct benefits and challenges.

Large, off-site projects tend to offer scale and help make a measurable difference towards locally-defined renewable energy goals. But they can be legally and financially complex and harder to sell to elected officials and residents. For this reason, the first renewable project that a city undertakes is often based in its own community. This might be an on-site solar project, which is installed at the same location where the electricity is consumed. Or it could be a community solar program, which allows residents to subscribe to a shared solar project within the community.

These kinds of projects visibly demonstrate a local government’s dedication to climate action. The clean electricity they provide to municipal facilities and residents can reduce community-wide greenhouse gas emissions.

But fewer emissions and cleaner air aren’t the only reasons that cities want to go renewable. Many are using local solar projects to achieve broader community benefits and align with other priorities. These include saving money, creating local jobs, expanding renewables access to low-income residents, and advancing local resilience.

1) Saving money and managing future price risks

Generating wind and solar is increasingly more competitive or cheaper than other forms of energy. That means switching to renewables can help municipal governments save taxpayers money. Nevertheless, the upfront cost of installing solar can be daunting to cash-strapped local governments.

One way a city can manage costs is by entering into an on-site physical power purchase agreement (PPA), a financial contract in which a solar developer owns and maintains a solar photovoltaic system that is installed on a municipally-owned building and sells the electricity to the city at a discount. A PPA allows a local government to leverage one of its key assets—land and roof space—in exchange for a cheap, fixed-term source of clean electricity.

The 2018 Solar Builder Project of the Year is a good example of this

This is exactly the kind of arrangement completed by Washington, D.C.. In April 2018, Mayor Muriel Bowser gathered community members to announce the completion of a 10.9 megawatt system comprised of on-site solar projects spread across 35 municipally-owned properties, including schools, hospitals and recreation centers. Over the 20-year term of the contract with developer Sol Systems, Washington anticipates saving $25 million from reduced electricity costs.

Fayetteville, Arkansas used a similar model to make progress toward its goal of achieving 100 percent municipal use of clean energy by 2030. In November 2018, Fayetteville’s City Council signed an agreement with Ozarks Electric Cooperative and Today’s Power, Inc. to install 5 megawatts of solar panels and 12 megawatt-hours of battery storage at each of the city’s two wastewater treatment plants, which combined make up about two-thirds of municipal electricity use. The 20-year project is expected to save the city $6 million.

2) Stimulating the local economy and creating well-paying green jobs

In 2018, the U.S. added 110,000 net new clean energy jobs, outnumbering jobs from fossil fuels by about three to one. Leading cities are working to bring these well-paying jobs to their own communities.

In August 2018, Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability released a roadmapfor how the city can reduce carbon emissions 80 percent from 2006 level by 2050 while emphasizing equity and community health. Local stakeholders encouraged the city to take a holistic view of energy and climate action when developing the plan and identify the potential for co-benefits such as job creation and air quality improvements.

Leading the roadmap’s implementation is the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA), an independent municipal authority that provides targeted expertise for local energy efficiency and generation efforts and facilitates the purchase of energy services on behalf of the city. PEA is leading the Philadelphia Energy Campaign, an effort that leverages $1 billion in public and private financing to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency. The Campaign is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs for Philadelphia residents in 10 years and create $200 million in savings for the local economy.

3) Expanding clean energy access to residents who can’t install solar on their property

To bring clean electricity to renters and low-income communities, cities are launching innovative community solar programs, which allow residents to purchase a share of a solar installation and reap the benefits of clean energy (including cost savings) without having to physically install panels on their property.

Austin, Texas spearheads multiple initiatives to meet the solar requirements in the city’s renewable portfolio standard—for example, solar rebates and a utility green pricing program that allows customers to pay a premium for wind projects from across the state. However, wealthier residents tend to take advantage of these programs more often than those from low-income neighborhoods: Austin zip codes with an above-average median family income received 75 percent of all solar rebatesin 2017. To expand solar access more equitably across the community, Austin Energy has created a community solar program and is piloting an innovative shared solar solution that targets hard-to-reach solar markets, like multi-family affordable housing and non-profits.

Programs like these are more than just feel-good—they offer financial benefits to those who need it most. Minneapolis, which has one of the most successful community solar programs in the country, saves money for 92 percent of their solar subscribers, and nearly a third of the program serves public entities such as schools.

4) Contributing to local resilience

In addition to cost savings, renewable energy projects can also increase community resilience. Pairing renewable energy with storage or microgrids can reduce dependence on the grid in times of natural disaster.

Too often, city resilience efforts begin with a catastrophic local event. In September 2013, Boulder, Colorado experienced a 100-year flash flood event that caused fatalities, widespread power outages and critical infrastructure damage. As part of the recovery, Boulder sought to rebuild in a more resilient way that would mitigate the risks and damages of future floods. The city partnered with Boulder Housing Partners (BHP), an affordable housing developer, to implement a solar-plus-storage system that allows operations to continue during emergencies. It includes electric vehicle charging stations to ensure that emergency transportation is available even if the grid is down.

Similarly, Santa Barbara County, California was ravaged by a series of wildfires in late 2017, followed by disastrous flooding and mudslides in the following year. Besides suffering extensive property damage, cities and towns in the area dealt with a series of widespread power outages. Perched at the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the community is located at the end of Los Angeles’ transmission line, where natural disasters can quickly leave residents in the dark. To reduce grid dependence, local cities like Santa Barbara and Goleta are exploring the potential to pair distributed renewable electricity generation with a microgrid and storage to mitigate future power outages.

It Takes Multiple Approaches

To achieve their clean energy and climate goals, cities will need to take a creative portfolio approach to renewable energy procurement that combines the tangible benefits of local solar projects with the scale of innovative large, off-site procurement options. The portfolio of renewable energy solutions will vary from city to city and should be paired with energy efficiency initiatives that reduce future electricity demand and enable a net zero-carbon electricity system. Successful implementation of local solar projects can be an effective first step to build momentum for other more ambitious renewable projects.

The Renewables Accelerator is a key resource for cities already leading on renewable energy and those kickstarting their clean energy programs. Learn more about renewable energy procurement options for cities and the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator here.

— Solar Builder magazine