Think about solar energy and you think of – Wells Fargo – right? Yeah, trick question.

Wells Bldg 1, Charlotte. Childress Klein

In North Carolina that is the case. A collaboration between Wells Fargo, Duke Energy, NextEra Energy, and in Catawba County advances solar power in a significant way.

The team announced a 20-year renewable energy purchase agreement. Wells Fargo will use all the power and meet 50% of its electric needs for its North Carolina footprint in its Duke service territory. That will be 8% of the bank’s total corporate energy use. The bank has a real estate footprint of 7.5 million square feet in the Duke territory and employs about 36,000. The 130,000 megawatt-hours Wells Fargo will receive each year will be generated by about 200,000 solar panels.

Approximate location of the project, NW of Charlotte

The initiative is the Blackburn Solar Project, with:

  • Photovoltaic (PV) solar arrays capable of generating up to 60 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy.
  • The project encompasses approximately 410 acres.
  • Subject to local and state approvals, the project is scheduled to begin operations as early as 2022.

Participation by big and visible business is a vote of support for solar energy use. It is also a big vote for the trend in renewables to locate closer to the point of use for the energy. “The development of renewable energy projects close to employee and customer centers is one way Wells Fargo is working to meet our net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal in a way that also contributes to the communities where we live and work,” said Nate Hurst, head of Social Impact and Sustainability at Wells Fargo in a press story.

Project developer NextEra Energy Resources is “negotiating a land grant with the Catawba Lands Conservancy to conserve lands along the Catawba River and expand a portion of the Carolina Thread Trail. According to the project website, community economic benefits include approximately $2.3 million in additional tax revenue for the local community as well as local employment opportunities, including up to 100 jobs to construct the project.”

The facility is scheduled to come online in 2022.

I reached out to a non-Carolinian about the value of these team efforts. “These types of agreements reinforce what those of us in the industry have known for some time – the business community is serious about carbon reduction,” said Andy Zellers, President of Influent Energy, a Midwest energy firm. “Partnerships like these demonstrate the creative solutions that come about when state policy allows consumers and providers of renewable energy to design the best products.”

The Blackburn Project is being built under Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage (GSA) program. “As large energy users look to expand their sustainability goals, many are finding Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage program the perfect fit to make that happen,” said Stephen De May, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president in a news release. “The program’s flexibility allows the customer to modify it to best suit their needs. The state benefits by more renewable energy.

A 2016 report outlined health benefits of solar energy use. It assessed three potential environmental and health benefits of achieving the solar penetrations envisioned in the SunShot Vision Study: greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions, air-pollution health and environmental impacts, and water-use reductions. Those benefits are noted below and are dependent on each project location and configuration.

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Feature image is from Catawba County’s website, which offers the image as a Zoom background.