New Purchase Puts Duke Energy In Rooftop Solar Business

Feb 9, 2015

Duke Energy has expanded its investment in solar energy, and will enter a new facet of the industry: solar panels on the roofs of businesses.

An IKEA in Sweetwater, Florida uses a solar array installed by REC Solar.
Credit REC Solar

Duke Energy bought a majority stake in REC Solar, one of the largest companies that installs solar panels on other businesses.

Among others, IKEA and Costco have bought solar arrays for their rooftops from REC, which operates mostly in the West.

It’s a departure for Duke, which has a renewable energy subsidiary, but almost exclusively focuses on large-scale industrial projects, such as solar and wind farms. The company has generally stayed away from the “distributed solar” business—putting smaller arrays on more businesses.

Duke spokeswoman Tammie McGee says the new company and the current company will work together by targeting smaller businesses, which may not want to own rooftop solar systems outright. Duke Energy Renewables will offer leases.

 “If you’re a small to medium business and you can’t afford the upfront cost of buying a solar system outright Duke Energy Renewables will buy the system and then sell the power to the customer over a period of years,” says McGee.

Duke will put up $225 million for these kinds of leases.

“It’s another indication that Duke sees solar as an important piece of the future energy game,” says Steve Kalland, executive director of the NC Clean Technology Center. “And they’ve been slowly but surely growing their presence.”

But, the leases will not be available in the Carolinas. By law, the only companies allowed to buy power are regulated utilities, including Duke’s other subsidiaries, but not Duke Energy Renewables.