One of the advantages of solar power is the ability to generate power on-site, eliminating the need to transport it over transmission lines. Hoping to capitalize on this characteristic, Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy, one of the nation’s largest electric power companies, is proposing a $100 million plan to install electricity-generating solar panels at up to 850 North Carolina sites, including homes, schools, stores and factories.

In June, the company filed an application with the North Carolina Utilities Commission asking for approval to implement this solar distributed generation program. Distributed generation is energy created close to where it is used, rather than being produced in large power plants and transported to customers over power lines.

If regulators approve the program, Duke Energy Carolinas would spend two years installing approximately 20 megawatts of distributed solar generation on rooftops of customer businesses and homes or on ground sites within the company’s North Carolina service area. Once that is done, Duke Energy Carolinas customers will benefit from more than 16 megawatts of power, enough energy to serve more than 2,600 homes.

Duke Energy Carolinas would own and operate the equipment, and the power produced by each installation would be used to serve the utility’s customers. Customers who agree to place solar panels at their location would be rewarded based on the size of the installation and the amount of energy it produces.

The company plans to recover its $100 million investment through North Carolina’s new Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (REPS) cost-recovery mechanism. The company estimates that, over its life, the program will increase the average customer’s bill by no more than 25 cents per month based on the average usage of 1,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each month.

The North Carolina REPS requires the utility to satisfy 12.5 percent of its customers’ power needs with renewables or energy efficiency by 2021. Beginning in 2010, 0.02 percent of the electricity sold to customers in the state, or an equivalent amount of energy, must be produced by solar energy resources. That requirement grows to 0.2 percent in 2018 and thereafter.