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Duke Energy Updates Solar Panel Plans

Duke Energy Carolinas updated its plan for investment in commercial-scale rooftop solar panels, which we reported on in June, and announced it is planning to spend $40 million to install solar panels on homes and businesses to generate power for distribution across the company’s grid, the Business Journal reports.

The company will pay the cost of installing the panels, about $13,000 to $42,500 per home, and will also pay “rent” of about $50 a year to about 80 residential customers it hopes to sign up. Duke will negotiate individual agreements with about 770 industrial and commercial customers that it hopes will participate. The program has already received inquiries from more than 200 customers.

Homeowners or business with solar panels installed won’t get access to the power generated, instead the company will use the initial program to learn how to collect energy from disparate small generators and dispatch it through its energy system.

The solar panels are expected to produce about 17 megawatts of usable electricity and produce enough energy to power about 2,600 homes, according to Duke President Ellen Ruff.

Duke won’t spend more than $1.3 million a year on maintenance and compensation, and the solar program will be funded in part by all of Duke’s North Carolina customers, who will pay an extra 34 cents on top of their monthly bill.

The utilities plans to have 850 participants by the end of 2010 and have 40 percent of the panels installed by the end of the year.

In May, Duke said it will purchase the entire electricity output of the nation’s largest photovoltaic solar farm – 16 MW. As the third largest emitter of CO2 in the U.S., the company’s 2007/2008 sustainability report outlines a scenario which would enable it to reduce its 2006 CO2 emissions in half— by about 50 million tons– by 2030.

Companies with similar tradeoff plans to enlist roofs for solar installations include Cox Communications, Xcel, and Southern California Edison.

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