Duke Energy solar storage pilot worthy of replication

It’s with great delight that I read about the handful of U.S. utilities that are seriously testing out various conservation, smart grid, storage and renewable technologies in an effort to extend greener offerings to customers. The latest is Duke Energy’s McAlpine Creek project, part of which involves the deployment of a 50 kilowatt solar PV array, consisting of 213 solar panels, at a substation that feeds the grid or, alternatively, can charge up a 500-kilowatt zinc-bromide battery system.

Duke hasn’t revealed any detail of the specific vendor technologies it is using, but I’m betting that the battery system for this particular pilot comes from Mass.-based Premium Power, which is largely operating in stealth mode at the moment. For one, the company’s TransFlow 2000 product fits the bill. It has 500 kilowatts of power and stores up to 500 kilowatts  2.8 megawatt-hours, is UL and CSA certified, and one of its main applications is for the time-shift of renewable generation energy. Boston Power, backed by VantagePoint Venture Partners, claims its storage product costs the same as pumped storage over the long term, or about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. I also remind that last October, when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spoke at an event in Toronto, he mentioned that Duke Energy had ordered $100 million worth of Premium Power’s batteries. An advisor and partner with VantagePoint, Kennedy also said a Canadian utility had ordered $100 million of the batteries as well.

Still haven’t nailed down who the Canadian utility is, but clearly Duke’s latest pilot project involves the TransFlow system. I spoke briefly with Bic Stevens, senior vice-president of business development at Premium Power and he remained cagey about the relationship with Duke. He would neither confirm nor deny that Duke was using the company’s product, though acknowledged it’s only a matter of time before details emerge. “As units get shipped out to big utilities they’re going to choose to advertise it or not advertise it, and eventually word will get out,” he said.

I would love to learn that it’s an Ontario utility (Ontario Power Generation, or Hydro One) testing out the Premium Power product, but I’m guessing — and this is purely a hunch — that Alberta’s EPCOR Utilities is the buyer. If there’s anyone reading this who has the scoop, please tell — I promise to keep a secret 🙂

6 thoughts on “Duke Energy solar storage pilot worthy of replication”

  1. “It stores up to 500 kilowatts”. Power can never be stored. Energy can. Perhaps you meant 500 kilowatt-hours?

    One watt = one joule per second. A joule is a measure of energy.

  2. Yeah, thanks for correcting.

    It has a power capacity of 500 kilowatts, with up to 2.8 megawatt-hours of energy storage. Put another way, it can supply 1 megawatt for almost three hours or 500 kilowatts for almost six hours.

  3. I have a hard time believing Epcor is the buyer. They seem focused in spinning off their generation assets into a new private company called “Capital Power”. The company is short in funds and hope to make some with an IPO. It is just my opinion but as an employee of the company I find it far fetched that they would spend that kind of money at this juncture. Plus Epcor has never been the type of company to take any type of risk that is not assured to give a return due to the fact they have to give the city of Edmonton a dividend and increase it each year.

  4. Wow. If this pans out, costs are as presented AND if there are environmentally accepable ways to dispose of or recycle storage batteries, this could be a winner. Reasonable cost storage can make for major evolutional changes in both grid design and renewable power benefits. Anxious to learn more.

  5. Are there any Canadian battery companies that have a competitive product? Is Canada going to import our batteries forever? Why?

    I see Chinese and Japanese name batteries for sale, cheap. They probably won’t last, but hard to compete with when every supplier is selling them, and the premium quality product always costs more.

    I want to see an environmentally inert battery, where if you have a leak, there is no toxic concern.

    Another concern I have is that the way the technology is changing. Investing now in a rack of expensive batteries may not be cost effective when next year new ones are twice as powerful and half the price, and nobody wants your old ones..

    Here is a Canadian alt-energy store selling 2 Volt 1725 Amp-Hr for a mere $759 each, or 2V 2100 Amp-Hr @ 72 Hr Rate sealed no maintenance for $1,555 each. Depending on the size of your house and power draw you might need a rack of them to store enough to last 24 hours or more. They show 12 batteries in the pictures, which is about right for a medium sized home with typical loads.

    You will still need a source of power to charge the batteries – the grid or a generator (bio-diesel/pedal powered) of some sort, for the cloudy days with no wind. Or you lose charge, you’re not supposed to discharge these batteries much below 50%.

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