Duke to build solar in Perry, Taylor County, Florida

Still citing clouds after Georgia has become the fastest-growing solar market in the U.S., and ignoring one of its own earlier Florida solar installations, not to mention its numerous ones in North Carolina, Duke Energy Florida takes a baby step of a 5 megawatt solar installation in Florida.

Susan Salisbury, Palm Beach Post, 15 October 2015, Duke Energy to construct solar facility in North Florida,

Duke Energy Florida Thursday announced plans to construct a new solar facility in Perry, which is in Taylor County in the Big Bend region.

This will be the second such project in the company’s plan to advance the development of solar energy in the Sunshine State.

“We have looked at our territory and identified where it is most advantageous,” said DEF spokeswoman Suzanne Grant. “The sun doesn’t shine 24 hours a day. There is cloud cover. We are looking for where it makes the most sense for our customers.”

Meanwhile, Gulf Power already announced back in January:

The solar facilities will be constructed at Eglin Air Force Base in Fort Walton Beach (30 MW), Holley Naval Outlying Landing Field in Navarre (40 MW), and Saufley Naval Outlying Landing Field in Pensacola (50 MW). Construction is slated to begin early next year, with the projects reaching commercial operation by the fourth quarter of 2016.

That’s 130 megawatts in the Florida panhandle.

Almost a year later, Duke plans only 5 megawatts:

Developed, owned and operated by DEF, the 5-megawatt solar facility will be constructed on 20 acres of utility-owned land using approximately 22,000 solar panels, roughly the size of 17 football fields.

“We are encouraged to see the declining price of solar technology and the interest our customers have in this renewable resource,” said Alex Glenn, Duke Energy state president — Florida. “This larger scale solar facility allows us to efficiently bring the greatest amount of renewables online for our customers in the most economical way.”

The story says Duke’s previous annnouncements were for ” a 3.8-MW project announced on Sept. 30, will be located in Osceola County” and “a 5-MW solar facility that will serve Reedy Creek Improvement District, the power provider to Walt Disney World, and a rooftop solar and battery storage project developed in conjunction with the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.” So that’s 13.8 MW total, which is less than any of the Gulf Power installations.

Duke’s press release says Duke plans 35 MW by 2018 and 500 MW by 2024. Three more years to do what Gulf Power is doing in one installation? And I’d have to look up how many years ago Georgia passed 500 MW. New Jersey passed a 1,000 MW several years ago. Even Duke has long been installing and buying solar power in North Carolina, and earlier this year was expanding into South Carolina.

The Tallahassee Democrat also picked up the Duke PR in a story by TaMaryn Waters, illustrated by a picture of Duke’s Stanton Solar Farm, which Duke’s own web page says generates 6 MW for Orlando Utilities Commission and started commercial operation in December 2011. Sure, that must have been built by Progress Energy before Duke bought Progress, but it’s still earlier than the solar installations mentioned in Duke’s press release. Also, it’s performing above expectations, according to Jennifer Runyon in Renewable Energy World.com, 20 November 2015. Duke must know this, because her story notes:

Duke Energy owns the project and sells power to OUC under a 20-year PPA. Duke officially began self-operation of the project last month, which means that Duke itself, instead of a third-party contractor, officially performs all monitoring and O&M.

It’s time for Duke to stop making cloudy excuses and to get serious about solar power in the Sunshine State.

Of course, that will reveal Duke’s investment in the proposed Sabal Trail fracked methane pipeline as a bad bet on a boondoggle. There is no need for any new pipelines, when Florida and all other states can move directly to solar and wind power, and convert to sun, wind, and water power completely by 2050.