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Duke Energy gets green light for North Carolina microgrid

Steve Rogerson
May 23, 2019



Madison County will soon be home to an innovative microgrid installation after the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) approved Duke Energy's renewable energy project.
 
In the town of Hot Springs, the company will proceed with a solar and battery-powered microgrid that will help improve electric reliability, provide services to the overall electric system and serve as a backup power supply to the town of more than 500 residents.
 
"Duke Energy's research work on microgrids has led to a large-scale effort that will better serve not only these customers in a remote area, but also help us gain experience from this pilot project to better serve all customers with additional distributed energy and energy storage technologies," said Zak Kuznar, Duke Energy's managing director of microgrid and energy storage development. "Projects like this will lead to a smarter energy future for the Carolinas."
 
The Hot Springs microgrid will consist of a 2MW AC solar facility and a 4MW lithium-based battery storage facility. The microgrid will not only provide a safe, cost-effective and reliable grid for serving the Hot Springs area, but will also provide energy and additional bulk system benefits for all customers. This will include reliability services to the electric grid, such as frequency and voltage regulation and ramping support and capacity during system peaks.
 
The project is part of Duke Energy's plan to meet power demand by balancing public input, environmental impacts and the need to provide customers with safe, reliable and affordable energy.
 
Another component of that plan is in the city of Asheville where Duke Energy will connect a 9MW lithium-ion battery system at a Duke Energy substation site in the Rock Hill community. The battery will primarily be used to help the electric system operate more efficiently and reliably for customers.
 
Together, the two projects will cost around $30m and should be operational in early 2020.
 
Also in the region, Duke Energy is closing a half-century-old, coal-fired plant in Arden by January 2020 and replacing it with a new 560MWcleaner-burning combined-cycle natural gas plant.
 
Duke Energy has a smaller microgrid project in North Carolina already operating. In Haywood County, it has a 95kW-hr zinc-air battery and 10kW solar installation serving a communications tower on Mount Sterling in the Smoky Mountains National Park that has been operating since 2017. It is also working on proposed projects in South Carolina.
 
Previously, the company operated a microgrid that served a local fire station in Charlotte. It continues to operate a microgrid at its Mount Holly research centre in Gaston County.