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Duke Energy Corp.’s (DUK - Analyst Report) business unit Duke Energy Renewables has begun the construction of a utility-scale solar power project, namely, Washington White Post II Solar Power Project.

Located in Beaufort County, NC near Bath and Washington, the project has an electric generation capacity of 5 megawatt (MW). This project is being built next to the Washington White Post facility I that has a generation capacity of 12.5 MW. Together, both these facilities will be the largest solar facility in North Carolina.

SunEnergy1, a solar design, engineering and construction company, will build the White Post II Solar Project. This photovoltaic project will utilize 27,450 panels and will generate sufficient electricity to power 1,000 homes. Like White Post facility I, this project will also sell all the output to North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency under a 15-year agreement. The construction of the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2013.

Duke Energy Renewables is a leader in developing innovative wind and solar energy solutions. Since 2007, Duke Energy has invested more than $3 billion to expand its portfolio of wind and solar power projects. Currently, the company owns and operates approximately 1,700 MW of renewable energy, which includes 1,600 MW of wind power and 100 MW of solar power.

Duke Energy focuses on core utility operations to build its rate base through capital expenditure investments. Additionally, the company is proactively and effectively mitigating long-term environmental-related risks through investment plans and constructive dialogue with policymakers.

In order to expand the use of renewable energy, the company is also developing an expertise in advanced technologies like the groundbreaking Notrees Battery Storage Project. Last month, Duke Energy Renewables acquired a 4.5 megawatt alternating current (MWAC) solar project in San Francisco from solar project developer Recurrent Energy.

In addition, its strong balance sheet and above industry average dividend yield add visibility to the story. Despite these positives, the present unfavorable macro backdrop, predominantly fossil fuel-based generation assets, tepid demand for electricity and pending regulatory cases remain matters of concern. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Among the stocks worth considering in the space are Huaneng Power International, Inc. (HNP - Snapshot Report), IdaCorp, Inc. (IDA - Snapshot Report) and Integrys Energy Group, Inc. (TEG - Analyst Report). While Huaneng Power carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), IdaCorp. and Integrys Energy Group hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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