Duke Energy has proposed creating a small, 10-kilowatt solar microgrid with a 95-kilowatt hour storage system in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The microgrid would allow Duke Energy to eliminate a 3.5-mile overhead power line to a remote communications tower in the park, allowing it to return 13-acres to its natural state.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a participant in the Climate Friendly Parks program. A network of parks that are pursuing sustainability planning. As such the idea of a solar project that eliminates the need for a power line and service corridor is an ideal project for the park. The project also comes during the National Parks’ centennial year.
The project would be the Duke Energy’s first microgrid project in the wild. The utility said it has conducted microgrid research projects before but this would be its first outside the research realm.
The project would use a Fluidic zinc-air battery with the solar installation, allowing it to provide all the energy needs for the tower. Also, by eliminating the power line it would reduce the need for maintenance operations on the line, which only serves the tower.
The tower provides emergency communications for the 522,427-acre park so its ability operate independently of the energy grid is important to park communications. Particularly in times like now when wildfires threaten the park and could threaten a power line to it.
"This project would allow us to take advantage of renewable energy resources to serve a customer's distinct need in a less expensive and more reliable way," said Robert Sipes, Duke Energy's Western North Carolina regional general manager.
Before the project can go through, however, it must be approved by the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) and the National Park Service. The latter is taking public comment on the project through December 13. People can submit comments here: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/grsm.
"Although the National Park Service will not make a decision about issuing a Right-of-Way Agreement or authorizing construction of the solar-powered system until National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act compliance are complete, the park is pleased to be considered for this project, which could support the sustainability initiative," said Park Superintendent Cassius Cash.
If approved, construction could begin on the project early next year and it could come online by the middle of 2017.Tweet