Duke Energy plans to install its first two large-scale battery storage units in 2019 in western North Carolina. A nine-megawatt battery system will be installed in Asheville and a four-megawatt system is planned in Hot Springs, in Madison County.
They'll be the largest installations of their kind in the South, said Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless.
"Battery technology is getting better, it's getting cheaper, and so something that we wouldn't have looked at maybe three years ago now makes a lot more economic sense," Wheeless said.
Batteries are still relatively new to large utilities, but their use is growing across the U.S. They can help companies reduce the need for more generating capacity by storing power from a variety of sources, including wind and solar.
The two projects will cost $30 million total, according to Duke. Wheeless said each can power a couple thousand homes for a few hours at a time, though they’ll mainly be used to supplement power from traditional sources.
They're part of Duke's Western Carolinas Modernization Plan approved by state regulators last year. That plan includes closing a coal-fired plant in Asheville in 2019 and replacing it with two gas-fired units.
Feb. 29, 2016, WFAE.org, "Regulators Approve Duke's Plan for Asheville Gas Plants."
Feb. 29, 2016, Duke-Energy.com, Duke announcement of the Asheville plant