Duke Energy gets go-ahead for solar + storage microgrid in North Carolina’s Madison County

duke energy microgrid

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.

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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

U.S. set to pass South Korea as world’s largest grid-connected battery energy-storage market this year

globaldata solar index

The United States in 2019 will become the world’s largest market for grid-connected battery energy storage as solar-plus-storage and peaking capacity requirements drive increased procurement, according to IHS Markit.

Deployments of grid-connected energy storage in the United States this year are expected to amount to 712 MW. This represents a near-doubling from 376 MW in in 2018. On the strength of this performance, the United States will surpass South Korea, which will see the market drop below 600 MW or even significantly lower.

The increasing market activity in the United States is being propelled by significant regulatory and policy developments as well as the diversification in major applications and geographic activity.

U.S. market charges up


The strong performance in 2019 represents a complete turnaround from 2018, when U.S. deployment stagnated and South Korea boomed. The year 2018 set a record for grid-connected battery energy storage as global installations nearly doubled, largely driven by growth in South Korea in the first half of the year. However, growth in the United States was slower, with deployments increasing by only about 22 percent.

In 2019, several major factors have come into play to fuel U.S. growth, including:

• Federal policies such as FERC Order 841 are driving regional grid operators across the country to incorporate additional market mechanisms that will enable more participation of energy-storage resources in wholesale market activities.
• The investment tax credit (ITC) currently available for solar is driving the development of a rapidly growing utility-scale solar-plus-storage project pipeline, particularly in the Western United States.
• State-level energy storage mandates and incentives to help kickstart development in progressive markets that are also wrestling with relatively high levels of renewable energy penetration.
• Utilities are ramping up procurements of both behind-the-meter and front-of-the-meter energy storage resources to integrate higher levels of renewables and provide additional grid services such as demand response.

Solar-plus-storage drives US energy storage market in the coming years

IHS storage stats

IHS Markit expects over 2 GW of energy storage to be paired with utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems from 2019 to 2023 in the United States. The availability of the ITC through 2023 for battery-storage systems coupled with solar PV has spurred development over the past year and will be the primary driver of co-locating utility-scale PV with energy storage. The majority of these systems are projected to be deployed in markets across the Western United States, including Hawaii, California, and Arizona, enabling further integration of PV in relatively saturated markets.

In terms of installed PV capacity, 10 GWdc of utility-scale PV installations are forecast to be paired with energy storage from 2019 to 2023, accounting for 16 percent of utility-scale PV installations during the period.

Cost synergies and operational efficiencies for pairing the two technologies can provide significant value, but they are overshadowed when comparing the opportunity of reducing the capital costs of energy storage by up to 30 percent with the ITC.

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DC-coupled systems can have a small, but significant cost advantage over AC-coupling depending on system size and characteristics, with the primary benefits including the reduction of power conversion equipment required and the ability to recapture DC energy otherwise clipped. AC-coupled systems are better suited for flexibly participating in a wider array of ancillary services, while both system types can leverage the ITC and benefit from shared installation and operational costs.

In terms of the 30-year levelized cost of energy (LCOE), IHS Markit estimates that adding 25 MW / 100 MWh of energy storage to a 100 MWac single-axis tracking PV system in 2019 could increase the pre-ITC cost of energy by 35 to 40 percent, assuming the battery system is replaced after 15 years. After accounting for installation and operational synergies of DC-coupling and applying the ITC to the cost of both solar and energy storage, an LCOE below $40/MWh can be achieved.

By 2023, IHS Markit forecasts solar-plus-storage will be a competitive resource compared to new natural gas resources in the United States.

Camron Barati, senior analyst, solar and energy storage, IHS Markit

— Solar Builder magazine

Saft launches a higher voltage (56 V) Li-ion battery option in its Xcelion line

Saft battery

Saft launched a new product in the Xcelion line, the Xcelion 56V lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, offering customers a variant on the proven technology behind the Xcelion 6T for applications requiring higher voltage.

As the third Xcelion product, the Xcelion 56V builds upon the existing technology behind the Xcelion 6T, launched in 2015, and the Xcelion 6T-E, a high energy Li-ion battery launched in 2018 that doubles the capacity of lead-acid batteries in the same form factor, allowing customers to take advantage of volume production. The Xcelion 56V offers higher capacity, a longer life cycle, longer calendar life, lighter weight, and smart battery capabilities compared to standard lead-acid batteries. The 41Ah Li-ion battery is an off-the-shelf solution with a nominal voltage of 52.8V and is only half the weight of lead-acid batteries of similar size.

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The Xcelion 56V also includes standard safety features such as abuse-tolerant Super-Phosphate Li-ion technology and a battery management system. Smart battery features enable communication with the end user, providing information about the battery state-of-health, state-of-charge, and other functions. Applications for the Xcelion 56V include military ground vehicles, defense, microgrids, solar power systems, electric vehicles, and other applications using 48V power.

Saft also has plans to launch an Xcelion 6T Li-Type 1 battery at the end of 2019.

— Solar Builder magazine

Inside Solar-Log Base, the company’s new solar monitoring, energy management platform

Solar-Log debuted a new generation of solar plant monitoring hardware at Intersolar in Munich: the Solar-Log Base. When combined with the new Solar-Log WEB Enerest 4.0 (coming later this year), these products will mean easier and more powerful solar monitoring and energy management.

“The new Solar-Log product generation was designed based on feedback from installers and fleet managers. Product development focused on where the pain-points are when it comes to monitoring and set out to soothe them,” said Silvia Blumenschein, CEO of Solar Data Systems, Inc.

The Solar-Log Base is compatible with over 1,000 components including all major inverter brands, battery storage systems, revenue grade meters, EV charging stations, and onsite weather sensors. The new hardware product line consists of the Solar-Log Base 15, Solar-Log Base 100 and Solar-Log Base 2000 modules.

Let’s see what’s cool about this new system.

Modularity and easy upgrades

Solar-Log Base

Each base element has a maximum plant size that it can monitor, but the sizes can be increased by purchasing an opening license. This means that if additional panels are added to a solar array, the Solar-Log can simply be upgraded using a software license instead of purchasing additional hardware.

Once the Solar-Log Base is installed onsite it can be configured remotely. The Solar-Log automatically detects if any additional software licenses are required to perform the desired functions, and its modular design means you only select and pay for those features and functions you need, on a per plant basis.

Flexible installation options mean that it can be installed multiple ways. The back of the Solar-Log Base is a DIN rail clip. If the hardware being installed is in an outdoor enclosure or inside an electrical box, it is very easy to mount it on a DIN rail. It can also be mounted using the retractable clips found at the top and bottom of the Solar-Log Base.

The Solar-Log Base has an internal storage capacity of 4 GB. Plant data is stored in daily, monthly, and yearly values for a period greater than 10 years, so you never have to worry about losing it.

Robust energy management options

solar-log enerest

The Solar-Log Base includes energy management functions like power control to adhere to varying local feed-in restrictions. The addition of a consumption meter makes feed-in management easy, meaning that there is never more power being fed into the grid than is specified by the utility company or local policy. In addition, as much power as possible is retained for self-consumption. Compatible meters also provide ways to optimize the usage of self-produced power by recording and controlling consumption and visualizing usage of individual circuits.

Part of optimizing self-produced power is storing energy so it is available when it is needed. Solar-Log offers battery visualization with several brands and even forecast-based battery charging with some. This functionality means that the Solar-Log selects the best time of day to charge the battery, based on the production forecast. The battery is then left with a full charge by sun-down.

Solar-Log Base + Solar-Log WEB Enerest 4.0 functionality

Coming later this year, Solar-Log WEB Enerest 4.0, when combined with the Solar-Log Base, will provide a powerful overall monitoring and control package. The updated and completely redesigned online platform will include advanced features, including a level of AI. Enerest 4.0’s self-learning functionality provides even more detailed and faster detection of plant errors. These features save a significant amount of time and money by simplifying the monitoring process and leading to prompt issue resolution. The corresponding app offers intuitive controls, modern features and interactive graphics, so plant data can be viewed on-demand, on-the-go.

The recently announced Solar-Log WEB-4U completes the monitoring and energy management package with exceptional service. Solar-Log WEB-4U means that Solar-Log professionals pro-actively monitor solar plant performance from one central command unit. Dedicated experts receive, analyze and remedy plant configuration & performance errors as quickly as possible, alleviating time-consuming tasks from O&M providers.

— Solar Builder magazine

ESS, CleanSpark team up for first-ever solar + storage microgrid with an iron flow battery

ESS iron flow battery

ESS Inc., a manufacturer of long-duration energy storage systems, has deployed its Energy Warehouse (EW) long-duration flow battery system at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in San Diego. The 50 kW / 400 kWh battery is integrated into a microgrid with a CleanSpark microgrid controller, and the system is designed to provide:

  • Up to eight hours of storage to enable back-up capabilities for critical loads;
  • Operational energy cost savings through on-site generation with storage; and
  • Full islanding capabilities for resilience.

The project is being completed in partnership with the project’s prime contractor, Bethel-Webcor JV.

“We are proud to partner with ESS Inc. for the Camp Pendleton project, as it marks the first-ever deployment of a solar-plus-storage system utilizing an iron flow battery,” said Anthony Vastola, SVP of Projects for CleanSpark. “The solution operates in off-grid mode by default so as to maximize efficiency, utilize solar over-generation and extend the overall life of the system. As a whole, we expect the microgrid will provide energy and cost-savings, as well as improved energy security, to Camp Pendleton for years to come.”

— Solar Builder magazine