North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives are bringing new energy innovation to rural North Carolina by coupling utility-scale solar with battery energy storage at 14 locations. The new “solar + storage” resources will be interconnected to electric cooperative grids and support the cooperatives’ Brighter Future efforts – an initiative to support co-op consumer-members and communities by building a more resilient, efficient grid, while upholding affordability and pursuing a long-term sustainability goal.
The 14 solar + storage sites will generate more than 23 MW of energy from more than 75,000 solar panels. In addition to the solar energy, the projects will provide more than 53 MWh of energy storage, expected to be dispatched when demand for electricity on co-op systems peaks. The sites will provide enough energy at maximum output to power more than 23,000 homes.
“Delivering value to co-op consumer-members and communities is a cornerstone of our cooperative purpose, and solar is a growing resource for us,” said Amadou Fall, COO of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. “Pairing solar with battery energy storage enables us to gain the most benefit from an intermittent resource, advancing grid resilience and supporting our goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Six developments are already operational:
- Two sites in Duplin County interconnected with Four County EMC
- One site in Halifax County interconnected with Halifax EMC
- Three sites in Randolph County interconnected with Randolph EMC
Activation at eight more locations is expected by the end of the year:
- One site in Greene County interconnected with Pitt & Greene EMC
- One site in Hyde County interconnected with Tideland EMC
- Three sites in Northampton County interconnected with Roanoke Electric Cooperative
- One site in Richmond County interconnected with Pee Dee Electric
- One site in Sampson County interconnected with South River EMC
- One site in Wake County interconnected with Wake Electric
“Solar energy is most abundant during the middle of the day. However, peak energy demand typically occurs in the late afternoon hours in the summer and the early morning during the winter. With hybrid solar and storage solutions, renewable solar energy is captured when it’s most abundant in large batteries. This energy can then be discharged exactly when it’s needed to efficiently support the grid,” said Kagen DelRio, manager of project development and engineering for North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives.
Cooperatives in North Carolina are working together to integrate innovative energy technologies, like solar and storage at a deliberate pace to balance and uphold commitments to reliability, affordability and sustainability. Currently, electric cooperatives have approximately 500 MW of renewable, distributed energy and edge-of-grid resources integrated or pending integration into cooperative grids through their shared role as a Distribution Operator.
As a Distribution Operator, the state’s electric co-ops are coordinating thousands of distributed energy resources throughout the grid to optimize their performance and support an efficient and strategic grid evolution. This sophisticated capability increases grid resilience and power reliability for co-op members by ensuring each resource and technology contributes optimally to balance the supply of electricity precisely with real-time consumer demand.
“North Carolina’s electric cooperatives’ role as a Distributor Operator enables us to monitor the grid holistically and actively manage a growing number of new energy resources in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past,” said Fall. “While cooperative power is already very reliable, this cutting-edge capability enhances reliability even further for co-op members, as power now flows multi-directionally throughout the grid.”
Driven by service and inspired by innovation, North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives are building a Brighter Future for 2.5 million North Carolinians. Beyond providing electricity, each of the local not-for-profit cooperatives is investing in their communities and delivering new energy solutions to improve quality of life for co-op members in 93 of 100 counties, primarily in rural areas.