Duke Energy will begin construction soon on one of its first large-scale electricity microgrids in the North Carolina mountains. The project will use solar panels and battery storage to supply backup power to about 500 residents in the remote mountain town of Hot Springs, on the Tennessee border.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved the project in an order on May 10. The approval came after regulators last fall requested additional information from Duke.
"This is the first large-scale microgrid that the commission has ever ruled on, so it was important that we figure out the rules of the road," Duke spokesman Randy Wheeless said.
Duke says the microgrid also will improve reliability of the electric grid in the area.
“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,” Zak Kuznar, Duke Energy’s managing director of Microgrid and Energy Storage Development, said in a press release.
The Hot Springs microgrid will have solar panels that generate 2 megawatts of power, coupled with a 4-megawatt lithium battery, Duke said.
Duke hasn't said how much it's spending on the project. It's part of a $30 million plan to improve reliability in western North Carolina. That includes another battery storage project already under construction in Asheville.
Both projects are expected to be complete in early 2020.