North Coast Solar Stocks

June 17, 2009

Duke Energy starts ‘smart’ solar initiative

Filed under: DUK — Tags: , , , — Jason @ 1:16 pm

6/17/2009 1:16:51 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C.: Duke Energy (DUK) unveiled its first glimpse of “smart grid” technology in the Charlotte area on Tuesday with an array of 213 solar panels in south Charlotte’s McAlpine neighborhood.

The panels, mounted at a substation on Pineville-Matthews Road, will produce 50 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power five homes. The electricity can be sent directly to area distribution lines or charge a massive, 500-kilowatt storage battery that will help stabilize power availability at times of high demand.

Over the past year, Duke has installed 8,100 “smart meters” in area homes, giving customers new details on their home power usage. Digital communications equipment mounted on utility poles and power lines will feed new data about power outages and other problems.

Duke also has enlisted about 100 McAlpine households to test Web-based energy management systems that allow them to fine-tune their electricity use.

David Mohler, Duke’s chief technology officer, called McAlpine a “smart-grid laboratory” for technology that is expected to see wider use during coming years. “It allows us to figure out, how do you use these assets in tandem?”

Duke expects to invest $1billion in smart grid over the next five years.

Smart grid envisions increased interaction with customers, quicker response to outages and power demand, and use of renewable energy such as solar and wind power. It has the potential to save customers money by using less electricity and, possibly, save enough power to delay the need for new power plants.

Already, Mohler said, the McAlpine technology has detected outages at five homes — all before anyone reported the problem.

The banks of solar panels at the substation themselves hint at emerging technology. The panels use less silicon than conventional models, making them cheaper, have reflective backings to increase performance and use plastic rather than metal housings. Three panels, mounted on pedestals, can be turned to catch light at different times of day.

Sunstore Solar of Greer, S.C., did the installation.

The zinc-bromine flow battery, the size of a freight trailer, was chosen because it will leave little hazardous waste at the end of its operating life. It will be the largest of its type to be installed in the United States, Duke says.

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To see more of The Charlotte Observer, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.charlotteobserver.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

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