Duke Energy Abandons Nuclear in Favor of Solar

by Vins

Duke Energy Florida, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, announced in late summer 2017 that it will shut down its power plant in western Florida and, instead, will install 700MW of solar capacity over the next four years via “solar panels, grid-tied batteries, grid modernization, and electric vehicle charging areas”. Duke Energy Florida worked with the state’s public service commission (PSC) to stop plans to build the Levy Nuclear Plant in Levy County, Florida, which has already cost local customers upwards of $800 million over the last decade, with actual construction yet to start. Duke Energy (Carolinas) also announced its decision to abandon plans to build Lee Nuclear Station in Gaffney, South Carolina, citing construction and generator costs hikes.

These closures are a part of a larger trend in the US nuclear economy. According to Julia Pyper of GreenTechMedia, “many are calling this the end of the nuclear age in America” when considering power sources. In addition to Duke Energy shutting down plans to build two nuclear powers plants, nuclear reactor manufacturer Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in August. Westinghouse was also slated to provide reactors for a handful of other nuclear power plants awaiting construction in the US.

Unlike the Carolinas, the settlement that Duke Energy Florida reached with their local PSC guarantees that the company will invest $6 billion on solar investments and electric car charging stations over the next four years. According to Harry Sideris, president of Duke Energy’s Florida operations, “This settlement allows us to move forward to create a smarter energy future for our customers and communities.” He believes this move shows Duke Energy’s commitment to sustainable energy source for its many customers.

The corporate press has failed to cover these important changes in the energy industry at a crucial time, as the White House and special interests are pushing the American energy industry back in the direction of coal and nuclear as primary power sources, for both energy and defense. Popular Mechanics reporter Avery Thompson called the closing of these plants, along with the Westinghouse bankruptcy… “nail(s) in the coffin” of American nuclear power!”

And, as Joe Romm reported for Think Progress, a landmark study now shows that renewable energy is cheaper than existing coal and nuclear plants in many areas. The study focused on the cost of power from a plant over its entire lifetime in North America, and how the “increasing economic advantage of renewables in the U.S.” will drive even deeper penetration of solar and wind here.

Making a key global point: It’s more expensive to operate conventional energy sources in the developing world than it is in the United States. Again, corporate media was silent on these facts.

Sources:

Megan Geuss, “Power company kills nuclear plant, plans $6 billion in solar battery investment,” Ars Technica, August 31, 2017, https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/08/florida-power-company-exchanging-nuclear-plans-for-solar-plans-cutting-rates.

Julia Pyper, “Duke Cancels the Lee Nuclear, Files for 13.6% Rate,” Green Tech Media, August 25, 2017, www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/duke-cancels-lee-nuclear-project-rate-increase#gs.yK0t1PY.

Julia Pyper, “The Nuclear (Power) War Isn’t Over Yet,” Green Tech Media, August 1, 2017, www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-nuclear-power-war-isnt-over-yet.

Steve Hanley, “Duke Energy Nixes Nuclear, Will Amp Up Solar Power Plants in Florida,” CleanTechnica, September 5, 2017, https://cleantechnica.com/2017/09/05/duke-energy-nixes-nuclear-will-amp-solar-power-plants-florida.

Avery Thompson, “Energy Company Abandons Nuclear Power in Favor of Solar,” Popular Mechanics, August 31, 2017, https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/news/a28025/duke-energy-abandons-nuclear-plant-for-solar-farm.

Joe Romm, “New study reaches a stunning conclusion about the cost of solar and wind energy,” Think Progress, November 20, 2017, https://thinkprogress.org/solar-wind-keep-getting-cheaper-33c38350fb95.

Student Researcher: Bethany Surface (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)