Solar Power

Duke Energy now has solar power plants across the state, including one at DeBary that provides 74.5 MW with 300,000 panels.

Duke Energy is keeping its promises.

From 2018 to 2022, the company, which has 1.9 million customers in 35 Florida counties, has completed 70% of its solar power plant plan, including the DeBary plant at 176 Highbanks Road.

Ana Gibbs, senior communication consultant for Duke, said the DeBary solar plant was put into service May 14, 2020, and any changes didn’t go into customer rates until July 2020.

“Previous to July 2020, a residential customer who used 1,000 kWh would be charged $129.74 per month,” she said. “Beginning in July 2020 bills, a residential customer who used 1,000 kWh was charged $130.09 per month (35 cents more).”

Ms. Gibbs said seven solar plants are up and running -- Hamilton and Twin Rivers, both in Hamilton County, Lake Placid in Highlands County, Trenton in Gilchrist County, Columbia and Sante Fe, both in Columbia County, and DeBary in Volusia County. Two are under construction – Duette in Manatee County and Charlie Creek in Hardee County. Sandy Creek in Panama City in under development.

“The entire Florida service territory benefits once it gets on the grid,” she said of the solar plants. “It doesn’t service just one area, but the entire Florida area. The size of that plant, if you were to section it off – it’s not how it works, but it’s what people get – at peak production, (the plant in DeBary) could power about 20,000 homes.”

In Volusia, Duke serves mostly the western half of the county.

The 10 solar plants cost about $1 billion. The DeBary solar plant, which came in at $91 million, has about 300,000 fixed-tilt solar panels that produce 74.5 megawatts of energy.

“Our customers have expressed to produce energy that is clean energy,” Ms. Gibbs said. “They are interested in more reliable and cleaner energy.

“We can’t just produce all solar. We have some gas plants and a couple of coal,” she said. “We need to have a mix to provide reliable power to our Duke Energy customers.”

Duke Energy represented about 40% of solar in the Southeast during 2020 and remains the regional leader in installed solar capacity, according to Solar in the Southeast’s fourth annual report in June. Duke Energy Florida increased its short-term plan with the approval of the Clean Energy Connection program. But the Duke utilities in North Carolina and South Carolina have reduced their short-term solar plans.

Ms. Gibbs said, in addition, another power plant at DeBary plant has nine combustion turbine units primarily used during peak demand. The plant began operation in 1975 with two units, and additional units were added in 1976 and 1992.

“We are continuing to invest in our solar,” she said. “We’ve already committed to those 10 plants. We have already committed to the next 10 (for 2022-2024).”

Ms. Gibbs said six are already planned – Fort Green in Hardee County, Bay Trail in Citrus County, Bay Ranch in Bay County, Hildreth in Suwanee County, High Springs in Alachua County and Hardeetown in Levy County.

“Operation of the proposed facilities displaces more than 51 million MWh of fossil fired generation over the life of the program and are expected to reduce DEF’s annual average use of natural gas by 11,000 million cubic feet along with over 7,000 tons per year of coal, reducing DEF’s reliance on fossil fuels,” she said.

Furthermore, “with the reduction in the use of fossil fuels, these 10 projects (2022-2024) are projected to reduce global warming gases, specifically CO2, at an average rate of more than 700,000 tons per year,” Ms. Gibbs said.

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