Hot Springs has just a few hundred residents and power system maintenance can be difficult because of its remote location. Duke is looking to use a microgridÂ to defer more expensive and dangerous work â€”Â a sign the utility industry is learning to use non-wires alternatives at a variety of scales.
In its application for the solar generation portion of the project, Duke told the Public Service Commission that the microgrid “represents an innovative grid modernization opportunity”Â to serve a community and multiple customers without having to “performing costly upgrades to, and ongoing maintenance of, an existing distribution feeder,Â in an extremely remote and rugged mountain region in Western North Carolina.”
The project fits alongside Duke’s Western Carolinas Modernization Project, which aims to bring more solar energy and battery storage to the Asheville region.Â As part of the project, Duke plans to shutter a coal-fired power plant in Asheville next year and replace it with a gas-fired plant, along with distributed resources.
The Hot Springs Microgrid will be constructed as a solar generation facility and a battery energy storage system in Madison County, on a single 15-acre parcel.
Duke said the microgrid will be capable of islanding from the grid in order to “mitigate outages” for customers connected to the Hot Springs 22.86 kV feeder, which runs for 10 miles from the Marshall Substation along the French Broad River and through the Great Smoky Mountains.
Duke recently filed integrated resource plansÂ with North Carolina regulators, laying out a 15-year plan that adds significant new solar resources, but continues to lean heavily on Â gas-fired generation.Â Between Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Consumers, the company plans to add more than 9.5 GW of gas capacity by 2033, starting next year. Duke will add almost 3.7 GW of solar capacity across the same timeline.