Nuclear power in the US took another hit last week, as Duke Energy announced it is abandoning plans for the Levy Nuclear Project and will build more solar power plants within the state of Florida instead. It is also taking other measures to increase the amount of renewable energy available to its customers in the Sunshine State. The announcement came at the conclusion of a regulatory hearing before the Florida Public Service Commission involving multiple parties in interest.
“This settlement allows us to move forward to create a smarter energy future for our customers and communities,” said Harry Sideris, president of Duke Energy’s Florida operations. “It resolves the future of the Levy Nuclear Project and reinforces our commitment to building cost-effective solar in Florida. It also makes smart investments that will offer customers more information, choices and control of their energy needs while also providing greater reliability.”
One significant feature of the agreement is that the company’s customers in Florida will not be responsible for any further cost associated with the Levy Nuclear Project. The company will absorb nearly $150 million in cost associated with the project and customers will see a reduction of $2.50 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours as a result. Instead, Duke Energy will invest $6 billion in solar energy, smart meters, and grid modernization as well as electric vehicle charging stations and a battery storage pilot program.
“We applaud Duke Energy Florida for working proactively with stakeholders to embrace smart technologies that are both good for consumers and the environment,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “Large-scale solar, electric vehicles, and battery storage demonstrate that Duke is embracing technologies for the 21st century. We welcome Duke’s willingness to work with stakeholders on data collection and any rate design changes impacting customer owned demand-side solar.”
The company plans to install 500 charging stations for electric vehicles and add a 50 megawatt grid-scale battery storage facility to help balance the grid as more renewable energy comes on line. Part of the plan to install more electric vehicle chargers includes encouraging customers to plug in their cars during the day when solar power availability is at its peak.
Duke Energy will construct new solar facilities with a total capacity of 700 megawatts over the next 4 years. Other utility companies in the state have already committed to adding an additional 600 megawatts of solar capacity. Combined, all the new solar power plants will more than triple Florida’s existing installed solar capacity. One of the first new solar power plants will be located on 550 acres of land in Hamilton County near the Georgia border. The 300,000 solar panel installation will have a peak capacity of 74.9 megawatts, enough to supply clean, renewable energy to 20,000 homes.