Duke Energy says it will invest $500 million in multiple projects to expand its solar power capacity in North Carolina. One solar farm in Duplin County will be the largest east of the Mississippi.

The utility giant announced the projects Monday, saying they picked three solar farms based on a request for proposal submitted earlier this year.

Combined, the new facilities will generate 128 megawatts (MW) of capacity.

Duke also signed multi-year power purchase agreements with another five solar farms that produce 150 megawatts of capacity.

That’s enough power for some 28,000 homes, based on Solar Energy Industries Association estimates for North Carolina.

The North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association sees the Duke decision as providing a boost to the state’s solar industry.

Recent WRAL TechWire coverage of solar power in NC:

  • Apple to add more solar at N.C. solar farm
  • UNC-CH lands $10M solar research grant
  • Sun shines on Durham solar startup Semprius
  • Solar industry creating more N.C. jobs
  • Duke aims to double N.C. solar capacity

“Duke Energy’s solar announcement today has promising implications for solar development in North Carolina. NCSEA’s members, HelioSage Energy, Strata Solar, FLS Energy, Birdseye Renewable Energy and many others are committed to driving down the cost of solar,” the group said in a statement.

“Duke Energy’s intentions to include solar in their rate base tells us our members are succeeding in their efforts. NCSEA is reviewing the full announcement and will be working with our members in the weeks and months ahead to support the fulfillment of today’s news.“

The Duplin County project will generate 65 megawatts alone, according to Duke. It will be called the Warsaw Solar Facility and will be built by Strata Power, which is based in Chapel Hill.

The other facilities, capacity and builders are:

  • 40 MW – Elm City Solar Facility, Wilson County (developed by HelioSage Energy)
  • 23 MW – Fayetteville Solar Facility, Bladen County, near Cumberland County line (developed by Tangent Energy Solutions)

Duke will own and operate the solar farms.

The $500 million figure is based on the construction of the farms and purchase agreements.

Duke is required by law (North Carolina’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard) to increase the amount of power it provides based on renewable sources.

“This is Duke Energy’s largest single announcement for solar power and represents a 60 percent increase in the amount of solar power for our North Carolina customers,” said Rob Caldwell, senior vice president, Distributed Energy Resources, in a statement. “We are bringing large amounts of renewable energy onto our system in the most cost-effective way possible.”