Energy & Innovation
North Carolina's electric cooperatives are pursuing and applying technologies to better use the grid and serve cooperative members in new ways. North Carolina's electric cooperatives lead the pursuit of innovative technologies and resources because, as the electric industry and the electric grid change, we want to be part of shaping an industry future that allows us to continue our mission of powering and empowering the people and communities we serve.
Examples of the cooperatives' innovative energy projects include:
A microgrid is a small electric system that combines local energy resources and technologies within a defined area. Microgrids typically remain connected to the main grid, but they can operate independently.
A microgrid on Ocracoke Island
North Carolina's electric cooperatives are piloting a microgrid on Ocracoke Island, which is part of the string of barrier islands that makes up North Carolina's Outer Banks. This microgrid will improve electric reliability on Ocracoke Island, which is exposed to severe weather and is isolated from central generation sources, (power plants) if the transmission line that feeds the island is without service. Additionally, the components of this microgrid will serve as resources in times of high demand for electricity, and the microgrid is acting as a living laboratory for the state's 26 electric cooperatives to learn more about these technologies.
Ocracoke Island is served by Tideland Electric Membership Corporation, the host cooperative for the project. It integrates an existing 3 MW diesel generator with roof-mounted solar panels (15kW), a Tesla Powerpack battery bank (500 kW/1 MWh) and 160 WiFi connected thermostats that can be called on to reduce demand during "demand response" periods.
Future microgrid initiatives
Electric cooperative leaders are considering an additional demand response technology - controllable water heaters - to incorporate into the Ocracoke Island Microgrid. They are also considering other areas for a future microgrid and how to incorporate alternative energy sources, like biogas, into a forthcoming microgrid pilot project.
Cooperative members across North Carolina are increasingly interested in harnessing the power of the sun to power their homes. Because home solar installations can be cost-prohibitive or not ideal for cooperative members who live in rental properties or shaded areas, North Carolina's electric cooperatives have introduced an alternative - community solar.
This model opens up solar energy as an option to more cooperative members, allowing them to purchase the rights to the energy output of solar panels that are grouped together at a location. Eleven electric cooperatives have installed 18 community solar farms totaling 2 MW. Electric cooperative members from the mountains to the coast are participating in this shared solar initiative, working together to support a common interest.
Demand Response Initiatives
The grid experiences moments of high traffic when demand for electricity is greatest and therefore most expesnive. Electric cooperatives are working with their members to lessen this demand by initiating programs to reduce or shift electricity use during peak periods. Examples include:
- WiFi connected thermostats - sending signals to WiFi connected thermostats to slightly adjust temperatures and save energy
- Water heater technology - applying technology to water heaters to shift the times of day when water in the tank is heated without ever compromising comfort
- Customer-Owned Generation - calling on energy resources, like generators, owned usually by commercial and industrial cooperative members.
- Conservation Voltage Reduction - applying technology to better measure voltage along power lines, providing the opportunity to slightly reduce voltage without compromising power quality.
Electric cooperatives are locally owned, locally operated and accountable to the members we serve. That puts us in tune with our members' needs and the needs of our communities. We will continue to innovate to meet your needs and expectations while staying true to our mission of providing safe, reliable, affordable electricity.