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 system 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 Dr. 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 2-megawatt (AC) solar facility and a 4-megawatt lithium-based battery storage facility. The microgrid will not only provide a safe, cost-effective and reliable grid solution for serving the Hot Springs area, but the microgrid 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 9-megawatt lithium-ion battery system at a Duke Energy substation site in the Rock Hill community – near Sweeten Creek Road. 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 $30 million 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 560-megawatt cleaner-burning combined-cycle natural gas plant.
Duke Energy has a smaller microgrid project in North Carolina already operating. In Haywood County, N.C., Duke Energy has a 95-kilowatt-hour zinc-air battery and 10-kilowatt solar installation serving a communications tower on Mount Sterling in the Smoky Mountains National Park that has been operating since 2017. It is also currently working on proposed projects in South Carolina.
— Solar Builder magazine