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Duke Energy now renting rooftops for solar power

Childress_Klein_2.jpg
Two-acres of roof atop a warehouse owned by Childress Klein Properties will soon be home to 2,314 solar panels.

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Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} Clarification appended A new plan by Duke Energy to generate solar power turns out to have some timely benefits for several companies in the Charlotte region: They're renting their rooftops to Duke. WFAE's Julie Rose reports: Childress Klein Properties is one of the largest developers in Charlotte and it owns millions of square feet of rooftop. But until now, "the roof has just been the top of the space below," says Chris Daly, a partner with Childress Klein. "It really hasn't been more than that. They're occasionally penetrated by what we're looking at here - air conditioning units and fans and things like that," says Daly, standing on the roof of an empty warehouse in north Charlotte. It's a little over two acres in size. In the coming weeks, Duke Energy will cover this roof with more than 2,000 panels to capture the sun's rays. Childress Klein will collect about $6,000 a year in rooftop rent from Duke Energy. That's not a lot compared to the $375,000 the warehouse typically rents for, but at a time when vacancies are up, Daly says extra money is always good. "If we can get a marginal bit of income out of this roof I mean we are more than happy to lend our roof space," says Daly. "And if we can keep Duke from having to build another power plant in the area, so much the better." That's the whole idea behind a new North Carolina state law that requires more renewable energy. By next year, Duke needs to have enough solar to power about 1,200 homes. But since capturing electricity from the sun is easily twice as expensive as from coal, clean energy analyst David Link says utilities are only bothering with it "because they have to." "I don't want to say that they're not wanting to do the right thing and so forth, but you know the utilities are sort of forced to support these programs," says Link, who works for Pike Research in Colorado. Link says Duke's taking a unique approach. Most other power companies are encouraging people to install their own solar panels. But Link says Duke is one of the few renting rooftops and setting up its own solar network. "They can keep those electrons and that revenue for themselves," says Link. Within 3 years, he expects this system of what's called "distributed solar generation" will be a $10 billion industry in the U.S. And he says it's the perfect time for Duke to get onboard, because the cost of solar panels is coming down. "This program gets us ahead of the curve, rather than go into the future where distributed generation grows and grows and grows and we have not done anything to really understand what the concerns or opportunities are," says Owen Smith, managing director of renewable energy strategy for Duke Energy. Duke Energy has approval from state regulators to spend $50 million on rooftop solar panels this year. It will cover some of that by adding about a dollar per month to customer bills. The company expects to have solar panels on seven business rooftops and a handful of private homes by the end of next year. Clarification: Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ansi-language:#0400; mso-fareast-language:#0400; mso-bidi-language:#0400;} The additional $1 a month Duke Energy will charge to residential customers helps cover the costs of all of its renewable energy efforts, and not just the solar panel initiative.