US utilities seek the sun

Solar panel. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Solar panel. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Raleigh - Plunging solar power costs are leading US electric companies to capture the sun just when President Donald Trump is moving to boost coal and other fossil fuels.

Major electric utilities are moving into smaller-scale solar farming, a niche developed by local co-operatives and non-profits.

It's both an opportunity and a defensive manoeuvre. Sunshine-capturing technology is becoming so cheap that utilities are preserving their core business against competition from household solar panels.

The largest US electricity company this year plans to launch a "community solar" programme in South Carolina and seek regulatory permission to do the same in North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana.

Charlotte-based Duke Energy plans to join Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy and California's three largest investor-owned utilities among other utilities moving into community solar.

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