Duke Energy Florida is investing in new battery storage.
The utility announced three new battery projects Monday that, when complete, will be able to store 22 megawatts of power. These will be the first installments of a promised 50 megawatts of battery storage by 2022.
"These battery projects provide electric system benefits that will help improve local reliability for our customers and provide significant energy services to the power grid," CEO Catherine Stempien said.
In addition to improving reliability, the lithium batteries will help power critical services, such as hospitals, as well as small portions of regular customers' homes. They will be built near existing Duke Energy facilities.
Duke Energy's investment stems from a 2017 settlement between the utility, consumer advocates and regulators in which Duke Energy agreed to build 700 megawatts of solar power and invest in 50 megawatts of battery storage. Customers will be charged for the batteries eventually. Though the utility does not currently have a cost estimate for them, the settlement allows $2,300 per kilowatt.
The largest of the batteries, an 11-megawatt battery, will be near a facility in Gilchrist County, west of Gainesville. A 5.5-megawatt battery will be located in the Panhandle's Cape San Blas, while another 5.5-megawatt battery will be at a Hamilton County facility.
Ana Gibbs, Duke Energy spokeswoman, said the utility expects them to be completed by 2020. More likely will be announced in the meantime to ensure Duke Energy makes its deadline in three years.
"We're just really excited to roll out this technology as a benefit to our customers," she said.
Batteries are one component of Duke Energy's strategy to both make the grid more reliable and invest in more clean energy sources. At a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times' editorial board in May, Stempien said that while batteries are important, their cost will impact how significantly Duke Energy relies on them.
"There needs to be a significant step change in the cost of batteries in order for them to be a real alternative for production of 9,000 megawatts of power on a really hot 96-degree day," she said.
Contact Malena Carollo at [email protected] or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.