On Thursday, Charlotte based utility company Duke Energy unveiled plans for a pilot program that will test whether or not 850 North Carolina homes can collectively produce the energy of a small solar power plant. While the panels will only be placed on 850 roofs, it is estimated that they will actually produce 16 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power 2600 homes.
Duke Energy has a few small obstacles to get past before it can move forward with its plan. The company is offering 100 million dollars to any company that can supply the necessary materials, panels, and labor for the project. They hope to get started in early 2009. In addition to finding a supplier, they must also gain the approval of the North Carolina Utilities Commission. It seems likely though that they will obtain approval in the next few months, given the considerable amount of public interest in clean energy projects.
While $100 million is expensive, Duke Energy hopes that this pilot program will demonstrate that a grid of homes generating solar power might be a cheaper long-term strategy for providing energy than would be buying land and constructing new coal-based power plants. In addition to this project, Duke Energy has been actively seeking other ways to enter the renewable energy market. The company recently purchased several large wind power companies and also bought 100 wind turbines from General Electric.
One of the more interesting aspects of the program is that the houses that place solar panels on their roofs will not be using the energy generated by their systems. Instead, Duke Energy will pay the homeowners a rental fee for the roof space, and distribute the energy from a centralized system as they see fit. A California company has also come up with a similar scheme to that of Duke Energy, but will instead use the roofs of commercial buildings for installation of solar panels rather than residential homes. They will also sell the energy that is produced to the businesses who agree to put up the panels. The plan and company have the support of a heavy hitter, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The only potential problem that I can think of with Duke Energy’s strategy is that perhaps people who rent their roofs will be dissatisfied by the fact that they aren’t getting to use the solar energy themselves. The pride that comes from producing and using solar energy might be part of alternative energy’s appeal. On the other hand, whenever people get paid for something that they don’t use much anyway (a roof), they typically are pretty happy.
So will your roof soon be part of a solar power plant? If its profitable and efficient, then probably so.
Read More About Solar Power Plants on the Green Options Network:
- Australia Builds the Largest Solar Plant (for now)
- Clean Energy Intro: Solar Thermal
- Florida Gives Green Light to Largest Solar Power Plant in U.S.