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Duke Energy to Build Next Solar Plant in Suwannee County


Duke Energy Corporation DUK will build its next universal solar plant in Suwannee County in an attempt to provide cleaner and smarter energy solutions to customers in Florida.

Details of the Plant

The plant will cover an area of 70 acres near Live Oak, east of the Suwannee River Power Plant.

The solar facility will generate 8.8 megawatts (“MW”) of carbon-free energy, sufficient to power nearly 1,700 average homes at peak production. The company expects to start commercial operation of the facility by 2017 end.

Duke Energy Florida will own, operate and maintain the Suwannee Solar Facility, which is the third in a long-range plan to bring in additional universal solar energy to the state.

Company’s Presence in Florida

In Dec 2016, Duke Energy closed three natural gas units at the Suwannee River Power Plant with a combined capacity of 129 MW. Three other natural gas units, with a generating capacity of 155 MW, will continue operations as part of the system to supply extra energy during times of peak demand.

Duke Energy is dedicated to providing clean energy to Florida. The recent moves of closing down natural gas units and building universal solar plants demonstrate its focus on supplying “greatest amount of renewable energy for customers, in the most economical way”.

Apart from this plant, Duke Energy Florida owns and operates the Perry Solar Facility in Taylor County, and the Osceola Solar Facility in Osceola County.

Moreover, Duke Energy Florida is aiding over 120 residential and business customers on a monthly basis to interconnect private solar on their property and has even set up a renewables service center for this purpose.

Other Endeavors

Thanks to the company’s focus on interconnecting private solar, the number of customers taking part in the program has skyrocketed 450% over the last five years. Duke Energy has invested over $4.5 billion in wind and solar projects in 13 states over the last eight years.

Long-Term Plans

The company has undertaken several projects and plans to invest in the range of $25 billion to $30 billion in growth projects over the 2016–2020 period. Note that the company expects to make capital investment of $9.225 billion in 2016, $8.8 billion in 2017 and $8.3 billion in 2018. The company expects its investments to support the targeted earnings growth rate of 4–6% through 2020.

Price Movement

Over the last one year, Duke Energy has outperformed the Zacks categorized Utility- Electric Power industry. During this period, the company’s shares gained 8.2%, compared with the industry’s return of 7.7%.

Duke Energy’s stable regulated operations, acquisition of Piedmont Natural Gas, renewable expansion, and organized transition toward a streamlined business mix is expected to boost the performance of the company over the long run.

Zacks Rank & Key Picks

Duke Energy currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A few better-ranked stocks in the same space include Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc. HE, DTE Energy Co. DTE and Ameren Corporation AEE.

Hawaiian Electric’s 2017 estimates inched up 0.6% to $1.80 from $1.79 over the last 60 days. Its earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 18.4% in the last reported quarter. The company sports a Zack Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Another Zacks Rank #1 stock, DTE Energy's earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 27.3% in the last reported quarter. Its 2016 estimates improved by a penny to $5.27 over the last 60 days.

Ameren's earnings surpassed the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 10.1% in the last reported quarter. For 2017, estimates improved by a penny to $2.77 over the last 30 days. The company carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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