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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Duke Energy Corp's Carolinas unit is seeking bids from solar power companies to supply solar panels, electrical equipment and installation services for the utility's proposed $100 million North Carolina solar plan, the company said in a release Thursday.

Starting in 2009, Duke wants to install photovoltaic solar panels at up to 850 North Carolina sites, including homes, schools, office buildings, shopping malls, warehouses and large manufacturing facilities -- both on roofs and on the ground.

Electricity generated through the program would total at least 16 megawatts -- enough to power 2,600 homes.

The solar proposal, first announced in June, requires approval by the North Carolina Utilities Commission before the company can implement it as the costs would become part of the rate base.

Duke, of Charlotte, North Carolina, currently gets less than 1 percent of the power it sells customers in its five-state region from renewable sources. The company's fuel mix is about 71 percent coal, 27 percent nuclear and 2 percent other (natural gas and hydro), a Duke spokesman said.

Duke owns about 39,000 MW of generating capacity in North America and Latin America and serves about 4 million customers in North and South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.

The spokesman said that by 2030 the company wants to change its fuel mix to 38 percent nuclear, 33 percent coal, 11 percent renewable, 12 percent energy efficiency and 6 percent other.

Duke, through its so-called "save-a-watt" program, sees energy efficiency as a fuel. The company has proposed and state utility regulators are considering the program, which would compensate Duke for efficiency investments.


(More at Reuters)