Duke Energy is the first North Carolina utility to make the top ten list of solar power users in the nation.
The Solar Electric Power Association said this week that Charlotte-based Duke ranked 10th in the nation for the amount of megawatts brought online last year.
Nevertheless, the green-energy lobby in this state is not impressed because Duke, along with Raleigh-based Progress Energy, helped kill legislation in the N.C. General Assembly that would have further expanded solar energy in this state.
Duke connected 20 megawatts of solar power in 2010, bringing the company's total to 26 megawatts in the North Carolina, and earning a congratulatory note from the Washington-based solar power trade group.
Most of Duke's solar energy in 2010 came from a single project, a 15.5 megawatt solar farm in Davidson County that's owned and operated by Maryland-based SunEdison. In addition to the solar farm, Duke also buys electricity from 18 solar rooftop arrays.
The top two solar utilities in the nation last year were Pacific Gas & Electric in California (connecting 157.3 megawatts) and Florida Power & Light (87.2 megawatts).
Duke and Progress are buying electricity from independent solar power producers to meet state mandates under a 2007 energy law requiring increased reliance on renewable energy.
This year Duke and Progress opposed a bill that would have doubled the state's solar requirement. The companies also fought a bill that would have allowed independent solar producers bypass the power grid and sell electricity directly to homeowners and businesses (under current law, solar producers can sell only to Progress, Duke or other utilities, which can in turn resell the electricity to their retail customers.)