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Duke Expands Footprints in Carolina - Analyst Blog

Posted
1/11/2013 8:50:00 AM
By: Zacks.com
Referenced Stocks:AEP;DUK;FE

Duke Energy Renewable, a unit of Duke Energy Corporation ( DUK ), has completed the White Post Solar Project in Beaufort County, North Carolina (N.C.), near Bath and Washington. The project has been built by SunEnergy1, which is a solar design, engineering and construction company based in Mooresville, N.C.

The commercial-scale solar power project has 53,000 panels installed on it. The solar facility with an electric generation capacity of 12.5 megawatt (MW) has the capacity to generate enough electricity to power approximately 3,000 homes. Under a 15-year agreement, Duke will sell the electricity to North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA).

The addition of this project has more than doubled the solar capacity of Duke Energy in the state. The company already had eight solar farm projects in North Carolina with a total generation capacity of 11 MW. Projects at Carolina include 1-MW Shelby Solar Project, the 1-MW Taylorsville Solar Project, the 1-MW Martins Creek Solar Project,, 5-MW Murfreesboro Solar Project, the 12.5-MW Beaufort County facility and three 1-megawatt commercial solar projects located in or near the town of Murphy, N.C.

Recently, the company had completed the Black Mountain Solar Power Project in Arizona that has an electric generation capacity of 10 megawatt ("MW"). The Black Mountain Solar Power Project consists of 42,000 PV panels. Located in Mohave County, the Black Mountain site is expected to generate clean and renewable energy that is sufficient to power 1,900 homes annually.

The company is providing affordable and clean energy to North Carolina and also continuing its involvement in eastern North Carolina as was done by its merger partner Progress Energy. Moreover, Duke Energy's recent acquisition of Progress Energy Inc. spread the new entity's stable U.S. electricity and gas operations in the Carolinas, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.  Key growth drivers of the company include its strong balance sheet and ongoing capital expansion projects.

However, we prefer to remain on the sidelines due to the present unfavorable macro backdrop, predominantly fossil-fuel based generation assets, tepid demand for electricity and pending regulatory cases.

Like its peers, American Electric Power Co. Inc. ( AEP ) and FirstEnergy Corp. ( FE ), the company presently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) that corresponds with our long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock.



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