Corning Inc. is boosting its use of renewable energy in North Carolina through a big solar power deal announced Monday with a division of Charlotte-based Duke Energy.
Duke Energy Renewables began construction earlier this year on an 80-megawatt solar farm in Conetoe, east of Rocky Mount in eastern North Carolina. When it’s finished later this month, it will be the largest of its kind east of the Mississippi.
Corning will buy 50 megawatts, or 62.5 percent of the farm’s output. Duke Energy Renewables, which is separate from Duke’s consumer utility, said it’s negotiating with another unnamed customer to buy the rest.
Duke started the renewable energy division six years ago, and now operates solar and wind farms in a dozen states. Greg Wolf, who oversees Duke’s commercial portfolio, said demand is rising among corporate customers for solar and wind power.
“We do believe a growing number of our customers will become these corporate accounts,” Wolf said. “You’ve seen announcements from people like Corning. Also, the Amazons and Googles and Facebooks of the world have gotten active in buying renewables directly from projects, and we believe that we’ll see more of that going forward.”
Corning, based in New York state, has 3,000 employees at plants across North Carolina. The company said the Duke deal would help reduce its carbon footprint.
“Corning has a history of being an environmentally conscious company and clearly sees how the increased use of renewable energy sources helps enable a brighter future for everyone,” Patrick Jackson, director of Corning’s Global Energy Management program, said in a press release. “Today’s announcement is testimony to our corporate citizenship and is the first of what we hope to be a series of projects focusing on utilizing greener energy sources.”
Duke Energy Renewables’ strategy is to build solar and wind farms that can serve large companies and institutions. It has announced other deals to supply green electricity to other utilities as well as to institutions, such as George Washington and American universities and George Washington University Hospital.
Wolf says the Conetoe solar farm's large size helps Duke and its customers. "We believe that scale still matters when building these projects. So this is a really nice, large scale, efficient project, and therefore the economics of that allow the ability to give the customer the best value," he said.
The company this fall opened a Renewable Energy Monitoring Center in the NASCAR Plaza building in downtown Charlotte, to manage all its solar and wind facilities.
Monday's deal came in the final weeks before North Carolina's Renewable Energy Tax Credits will expire. A spokeswoman said other deals in the works also could qualify for the credit. Meanwhile, a similar federal tax credit program is due to expire at the end of 2016.