Driven by a shared vision of powering a Brighter Future, North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives achieved several significant milestones in energy innovation this year. In addition to a continued commitment to supporting our communities and providing energy that is sustainable and affordable, electric cooperatives are focused on implementing innovative energy projects that enhance service to consumer-members and strengthen the grid.
“Cooperatives in North Carolina are working together to lead energy innovation and deploy technologies and services that advance our Brighter Future vision and benefit our 2.5 million members across the state,” said Amadou Fall, chief operating officer at North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Our members needs and expectations guide our planning, and our achievements this year reflect our strategic path forward to support our communities and members, now and for generations to come.”
Through innovation, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are enhancing power reliability and grid resilience, and supporting the cooperatives’ long-term sustainability goal. Let’s take a look back at cooperative innovation in 2022:
Solar + Storage
In June 2022, North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives announced the addition of 13 “solar + storage” sites located in cooperative service territories that combine utility-scale solar with battery storage. By coupling these technologies together, solar energy becomes a more flexible resource and allows for the stored solar energy to be used when it’s needed, efficiently supporting the grid and providing the greatest benefit to cooperative members.
The new solar + storage resources have been interconnected to the grid throughout 2022, with a few remaining projects scheduled to be finalized next year. In total, the 13 projects will generate more than 23 MW with the ability to power more than 23,000 homes at peak output.
Battery Energy Storage Systems
Battery energy storage systems are in development at 10 co-op substations in rural areas across the state, adding local energy resources to co-op communities. The projects will contribute 40 MW of energy storage collectively and benefit cooperative members through enhanced reliability, power resilience, sustainability and a more efficient use of the grid.
The fifth microgrid on the cooperatives’ system is nearly complete and will be operational in early 2023, bringing more local energy resources and enhanced reliability to co-op members and communities. Located in Hyde County and integrated by Tideland EMC, the Rose Acre Farms agricultural microgrid integrates solar energy and battery storage, supports reliability and environmental sustainability for the farm and is a powerful resource for Tideland EMC in enhancing grid resiliency for the local community.
As the number of distributed energy resources (DER) interconnected to the grid has increased, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives implemented a cutting-edge capability to serve as a Distribution Operator (DO) in 2021. Now in 2022, as a Distribution Operator, North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are monitoring, aggregating and deploying these new energy resources, optimizing their contributions and enhancing power reliability and grid resilience in real time.
Connect to Save
The Connect to Save program reached new heights in 2022. Originally launched in 2020, the program provides simple home energy solutions to improve comfort and increase savings for cooperative members, all while revolutionizing the grid. Members can opt in to receive smart thermostats and water heater controls installed in their home. By enabling adjustments to device settings during times of high power demand, cooperative members are working together to manage energy use and achieve savings that benefits all co-op members, while still maintaining comfortable in-home and hot water temperatures.
Since 2020, more than 8,800 cooperative members have joined Connect to Save, enrolling more than 12,000 smart thermostats and 1,800 smart water heater devices and collectively achieving savings of more than $2M on wholesale power costs. Seven electric cooperatives in North Carolina offer the program to their members at this time.
In addition to the deployment and integration of cutting-edge technologies, NC electric cooperatives are also pursuing economic development projects that support job creation and leading community programs that positively impact educators and students across the state. Looking ahead to 2023, cooperatives will continue to power a brighter future by providing reliable, affordable and increasing sustainable electricity while enriching the lives of members through local community support and initiatives.