Twice last year, sensors at a Duke Energy substation detected potential power losses from storms. In a fraction of a second, an experimental system disconnected the station from power lines and switched to solar-powered backup batteries, then reconnected it to the grid after the threats passed.
The episodes offered a glimpse into the future of electricity, which in the next decade or so could come to you without power lines.
The Charlotte fire station is part of Duke’s research into self-contained power systems called microgrids.
Microgrids typically store energy from solar panels in large batteries. They can serve as backup power when the grid is down, its function at Station 24. They can act as firewalls from cascading power outages that start miles away, and can help utilities make better use of solar or wind power.
A utility repair worker will put on “augmented reality” glasses to work out the job in detail before ever picking up a tool. Hovering drones will scan solar farms for dead cells.