Duke seeks to recover costs for solar projects

Columbia County plant expected to begin operating in early 2020

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Duke Energy Florida is moving ahead with solar-energy projects in Hamilton and Columbia counties and is asking state regulators for approval to recover the costs from customers.

Duke filed a petition Tuesday with the Florida Public Service Commission as an initial step toward collecting the money, while also announcing plans for the 74.9-megawatt solar plant in Columbia County.

Under terms of a base-rate settlement approved by the Public Service Commission in 2017, Duke is allowed to seek recovery of solar-project costs, though it also has to show that the projects are reasonable and cost-effective.

The 74.9-megawatt Hamilton County solar plant is expected to begin operating late this year, with customers likely to see a slight increase in their monthly electric bills starting in January.

Residential customers who use 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month would see an increase of 46 cents on their bills, according to Duke’s filing at the Public Service Commission.

The Columbia County plant is expected to begin operating in early 2020.

In a prepared statement this week, Catherine Stempien, president of Duke Energy Florida, pointed to environmental benefits of the projects.

"Together, the Hamilton and Columbia solar power plants are expected to eliminate approximately 645 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions in Florida each year upon commercial operation. That's the equivalent of taking 63,000 passenger cars off the road," Stempien said. "These projects represent our commitment to more fuel diversity in the state and to rapidly expand renewable generation for our Florida customers' benefit."