Duke’s new solar farms in Florida echo what Duke was already doing three and a half years ago when an independent study concluded more solar power in North Carolina would save utility ratepayers tens of millions of dollars annually.
John Downey, Charlotte Business Journal, 23 October 2013, Study: Solar benefits outweigh costs in NC,
It notes the gains from solar projects — such as lower transmission and distribution costs, avoided emissions, lower losses of electricity in transmission. The study calculates that such benefits outweigh the costs by 30 percent to 40 percent.
The utility buying most of that solar power in North Carolina is none other than Duke Energy. In Florida, Duke just got approval from the Suwannee Board of County Commissioners to build a 62-acre 8.8 MW solar plant next to its Suwannee Power Plant, while shutting down some old natural gas generating turbines, and keeping some newer ones going.
As we learned only a week before at a meeting about the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) required by the Florida legislature, nitrogen runoff from fertilizers is a huge problem in the Suwannee River Basin, and needs to be reduced 80-90% from every source. Duke Energy (or even FPL) could buy power from distributed solar farms on 1030 more acres in Suwannee County and produce enough power to shut down the rest of its gas turbines at that Suwannee River facility, while generating enough power for twice the number of households in Suwannee County. That would remove power plant emissions and use of cooling water, while helping solve the BMAP problem.
No, I’m not recommending cutting down trees for solar panels. Rooftop solar power and solar panels on marginal farmland would make far more sense. As even Duke says, solar panels produce “little to no waste”, which means no fertilizer or pesticide runoff from them. Graze cows, sheep, or goats around them, and the farmer has income from both the solar panels and the livestock, while still needing no pesticides to control weeds. That’s what Sandy Hill Solar of Elm City, North Carolina does, and the utility buying their power is Duke Energy.
Duke by February 2015 had expanded its solar buying into South Carolina, and by October 2015 announced a new solar farm near Perry, Florida, Duke’s second such project in Florida, and operational in Perry by September 2016. Funny how solar plants can go online in less than a year, unlike the three-year-plus permitting process of interstate natural gas pipelines.
The Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) lists numerous studies about the cost-effectiveness of solar power, including that North Carolina 2013 report, now with a copy on the LAKE website. SEIA also lists one for Virginia which is on the MDV-SEIA website, and now also has a copy on the LAKE website.
For Georgia SEIA lists the testimony of GSEIA before the Georgia Public Service Commission in 2013. See also other testimony at that same GA-PSC session, which resulted in GA-PSC requiring Georgia Power to buy twice as much solar power as it wanted to. GA-PSC did the same again in 2015, which was also the year Georgia Power finally stopped its dozen-year-long objections to fixing a 1970s law, and actively backed a 2015 version of that solar financing bill, which passed unanimously in the Georgia Senate and was signed by the same Georgia governor who had accepted campaign finance contributions from multiple pipeline company PACs. After the bill became law, Georgia Power started selling solar power.
Georgia Power’s parent company Southern Company is also installing solar power in the Florida panhandle through its subsidiary Gulf Power, including three projects at military bases totalling 120 MW.
All that is without even comparing solar power to natural gas pipelines such as Sabal Trail. I did that comparison, and I’m still watiing for somebody to show me any flaws in my arithmetic, which shows that FPL’s ratepayers, now stuck with a $3.2 billion bill for the Sabal Trail boondoggle, could get five times as much electricity through solar power at that price.
For Florida SEIA lists only a very old (2003) study with a broken link, which can be found as a google book, but now would mostly be worthwhile as a museum piece. Duke’s own actions in Florida in 2016 and 2017 indicate Duke Energy knows the sun is rising even on the Sunshine State.
Sure, Duke is going too slow (although not as slow as FPL). Duke’s “strategic, long-range plan to install 35 megawatts of universal solar by 2018, and up to 500 megawatts in the state by 2024” is pocket change for peanuts. Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson’s research project has spelled out what Florida (and each other U.S. state) needs in solar, wind, and water power to run everything, depicted on thesolutionsproject.org and backed up by a hundred-plus-page report.
The people of Florida are demanding more solar power. Tens of millions of dollars in fossil fuel and utility money didn’t convince the voters of Florida to support a fake solar amendment last November. The sun is rising, even on the Sunshine State. All the dirty dollars and all the bought politicians can’t stop it.
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