Duke Energy wants to put a power plant on your house.

Over the next year, the utility plans to spend $50 million to plop a variety of photovoltaic panels on commercial buildings, the roofs of private homes, and other property in North Carolina.

Once installed, the 10 megawatts worth of solar panels are expected to produce enough alternating-current electricity to power 1,300 homes. But the utility’s main goals for the demonstration project are to gain experience with distributed generation—putting the power plant closer to the customer—and with integrating intermittent, renewable resources like sunshine into the grid.

Duke will own the solar panels and the electricity they produce. Property owners will get a nominal but so far undetermined rental fee, says Duke spokesman David Scanzoni. More than 500 businesses and homeowners have registered to be considered. “Very few are interested in it for the money,” he said. “No one will get rich doing this."

It’s the first time, as far as we know, that a utility has put part of its power-generating equipment on the homes of residential customers. A similar program in California places photovoltaic panels on commercial customers’ rooftops.

No word yet on how much the electricity generated this way will cost, though it will probably be more than the retail rate of 8 cents per kilowatt-hour in North Carolina.

Credit: ©iStockphoto.com / Jarek Szymanski