Archive for November 16th, 2012

Duke Energy to test new uses for old EV batteries

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments


Duke Energy, partnering with General Motors and power technology company ABB, will test whether used electric-vehicle batteries can find new purpose on the electric grid.

Lithium-ion batteries often have 70 percent or more of their useful life when they’re no longer usable in electric vehicles, GM says. GM and ABB began work two years ago on ways to reuse their energy storage.

A demonstration Wednesday in San Francisco gave a hint. Five used Chevrolet Volt battery packs were repackaged into a unit that could power three to five average homes for two hours.

Duke envisions battery systems smoothing out the sudden swings in output from solar photovoltaic systems, said senior project manager Dan Sowder, helping the grid work more efficiently.

Duke will install a five-battery system on its grid somewhere in its six-state territory, Sowder said, ideally at a business or home with a rooftop solar system. The location hasn’t been identified.

While prototypes have been tested, Sowder said, “the leap here is that we’re going out to the real live electrical grid.” Duke is also testing other energy-storage technologies across its territory.

The companies see other potential benefits from EV batteries.

As the San Francisco demonstration showed, batteries could supply emergency power during power outages. They could also be charged at night, when electric rates are lowest, and their energy released to the grid during peak demand times.

New uses would also give old batteries new value, reducing the effective cost of owning EVs. GM expects to have 500,000 vehicles with some form of electrification on the road by 2017, implying a healthy market for recyclable batteries.

ABB’s research center in Raleigh has conducted research and development while its Lake Mary, Fla., unit is doing further testing, market research and product development.

ABB’s North American headquarters is in Cary. The company employs more than 1,600 people in North Carolina, including 100 at a cable-making plant it opened this year in Huntersville.

By Bruce Henderson, Charlotte Observer

Solar Energy Providing Jobs in Eastern N.C.

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

BATH — Solar energy production has become a hot industry in Eastern North Carolina, pumping revenue and jobs into some of the poorest communities in the state.

The newest commercial-scale project in Beaufort County, scheduled to open by year’s end, is Duke Energy Renewables’ largest solar project so far. Built on 88 acres of farmland just outside Bath, the $40 million Washington White Post Solar Farm will have about 56,000 solar panels that can generate enough electricity to power about 2,000 homes.

The power will be purchased from Duke Renewables, a non-regulated commercial unit of Duke Energy, by the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency through a renewable 15-year agreement, said Duke spokeswoman Tammie McGee. The 12.5-megawatt project could potentially expand, she said, but it has not been decided to what extent.

With the nearby city of Washington — often called “Little Washington” —- suffering a poverty rate of 30 to 40 percent and unemployment hovering around 11 percent, the jobs and tax revenue created by the project are likely more welcome than the clean energy.

“Everyone is thankful we’re here,” said Kenny Habul, chief executive of SunEnergy1, the Mooresville-based contractor. “We’re very well supported. Most people should be fans of clean power — unless you’re a fan of coal.”

There has been no public outcry about the aesthetics of the blue-grey solar panels spread over acres of former farmland, said Catherine Glover, executive director of the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce.

“I have not heard objections from anyone,” she said. “If anything, it’s just providing the economic impact we need right now.”

Glover said that between construction jobs and increased business at area retailers, motels and eateries, the project will bring about $20.1 million into the local economy.

And when the Bath project is completed, SunEnergy1 is onboard to build a proposed 20-megawatt solar farm on public land near the local Washington airport, pending Federal Aviation Administration approval, said Shawn Lemond, CEO of Sustainable Energy Community Development Co. in Davidson and the facilitator of both projects.

After the second project, Lemond said, Washington will be at capacity for utility-scale solar power, based on the system demands. But he emphasized that the limitation has no effect on small-scale solar power used at homes and businesses.

North Carolina law requires municipal or co-op utility companies to provide 10 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2018; for investor-owned power companies like Duke the standard is 12.5 percent by 2021.

Lemond, who started his company in 2010, said the growing demand for solar power in Eastern North Carolina is a reflection of the state’s friendly policies and tax incentives for renewable energy businesses. Overall, jobs in renewable energy have expanded from about 4,000 statewide in 2007 to about 15,200 statewide in 2011, he said.

In addition to a 5-megawatt project in Murfreesboro completed in Dec. 2011, Duke Renewables has six 1-megawatt projects in the western part of the state.

But Lemond said he sees the most opportunity in the solar energy field in the eastern and northeastern parts of the state, where there is an abundance of rural flat land and sunshine and a profound need for jobs.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in the number of solar projects being proposed in Eastern North Carolina, both in terms of the number of projects and an increase in the size,” said Julie Robinson, director of government affairs for the N.C. Sustainable Energy Association. “It’s definitely an area of high interest.”

Robinson said that jobs in the solar industry, many of which entail training and certification, can be compared to the construction industry in that skilled workers go from jobsite to jobsite. For that reason, the solar industry is starting to cluster projects, and manufacturers of solar parts are opening or relocating in North Carolina to meet the industry demand.

Robinson said that with its clean energy policies and job creation, North Carolina is a leader in the Southeast, especially in solar power, and is in the top 10 nationwide.

“I think the goal is to have a more diverse energy mix,” she said. “But renewable energy will never replace all traditional energy like nuclear and coal that our state has relied on for generations.”

For the Bath project, 150 workers have been hired, many of them unemployed construction workers from the local community, Lemond said. That translates to 294,000 wage hours. The project, he said, is also expected to bring an additional $600,000 of sales tax revenue and $209,000 in annual property tax revenue, equal to ½ cent of the county tax rate.

“It allows the very people who were hit the hardest out in Eastern North Carolina to benefit,” he said. “It’s a perfect fit.”

Typically, farmers can lease all or part of their land for about $300 to $400 per acre per year for 15 years, Lemond said.  If the fixed lease is renewed for another 15 years, the price goes up to $450 to $500 per acre per year. Leases adjusted annually usually start at about $125 per acre per year.

Lemond said that there are also benefits beyond direct pay: Line loss — electrical power lost in transmission — is reduced 7 percent. And the infusion of money in worker’s pockets trickles down into the community.

“This has really helped a lot in my county,” Gopher Vaughan, owner of Vaughan Septic & Well Service in Washington, said in a video about the project, “because every cent I make I spend in the county.”

Bosch Solar Energy, a German company providing most of the solar modules at the Bath project, recently opened a second U.S. location in Mooresville, outside of Charlotte, which has become a hub of energy innovators. The company also has an office in San Mateo, Calif.

“North Carolina has a fairly strong program to encourage the use and deployment of solar,” said Eric Daniels, Bosch regional president. “It’s a wonderful place to do business and it’s got the advantage of having a significant amount of sun.”

Daniels said that solar technology has become much more efficient and less expensive; four years ago solar cells cost twice what they cost now. And he said that there is a lot of work being done to continue improvements in the industry.

Solar systems are designed to withstand winds in excess of 125 mph, he said. Even the glass surrounding the silicon solar cells — there are 72 in each module — is made strong enough to take the direct force of a golf ball strike. The systems automatically cut off in hurricane, and all cabling is underground.

Daetwyler Clean Energy in Huntersville has been contracted to build the ground racks that support the 12- to 14-foot wide panels, which are placed in east–to-west lines. The south-facing panels, standing 12 feet off the ground, are noiseless and produce less glare than sun reflecting off water.

The project is expected to eventually produce 23 megawatts of power, Lemond said, based on its sunny southern location.

Lemond said that his company is looking at more projects at locations east of I-95 in North Carolina, including Edenton, Farmville and Elizabeth City, that will add a total of 400 megawatts of solar power to the region.

“It’s an impressive industry,” he said. “It is no longer a fad. It’s got real legs and the ability to really change the economics in Eastern North Carolina for the foreseeable future.”


By Catherine Kozak

NC-CHP Initiative holds second meeting; attends NCSU CHP facility ribbon cutting

Posted on: November 16th, 2012 by shannon No Comments

The North Carolina Combined Heat and Power Initiative (NC-CHP Initiative), an industry group focused on creating a favorable environment in the state for development of CHP, held its second meeting on Wednesday, November 14, 2012.  The meeting hosted 30 attendees from the CHP industry, including project developers and end-users, and featured invited guests from the North Carolina General Assembly and North Carolina Public Utilities Commission. The NC-CHP Initiative leadership provided updates on an action plan and policy initiatives for 2013, and led a lunch discussion session with Representative Deborah Ross from the North Carolina General Assembly and Sam Watson of the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

The NC-CHP Initiative coordinated this meeting with North Carolina State University’s ribbon cutting ceremony for its 11 megawatt Cates Facility combined heat and power (CHP) system. NC State University’s Facilities Division hosted the NC-CHP Initiative and other guests for the ceremony, at which NC State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, Vice Chancellor for Finance Charlie Leffler and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Facilities Operations Jack Colby, gave their views of the CHP system’s financial benefits and contribution towards the University’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2050. The ceremony was followed by tours of the new facility.

NC State University completed the 11 MW combined heat and power project on campus to move toward making the NC State a more sustainable community.  The project is located on main campus at the University’s Cates Facility, and is expected to generate $4.3 million of energy savings in the first year of operation.  The project will increase NC. State’s electrical and steam system efficiency by roughly 35%, reducing the University’s greenhouse gas emissions by 8%, or 33,000 CO2 equivalent metric tons. The system will be fueled by natural gas, and will include two 5.5 MW Combustion Turbines, two 50,000 PPH heat recovery steam generators, a 2,000 ton chiller and a cooling tower.  Overall the system will provide approximately 30% of a typical day’s supply of power to North and Central campus.

The project at NC State was financed by Bank of America through a performance contract with Ameresco, Inc., and the cost savings will be used to repay the loan.  If the savings exceed the guaranteed level, the University can apply the excess towards other clean energy or energy efficiency projects on campus.

The Clean Power and Industrial Energy Efficiency team at the North Carolina Solar Center, in the University’s College of Engineering, manages the US DOE Southeast Clean Energy Application Center, and provided technical assistance on the project.   For more information on clean energy resources, visit