CHARLOTTE (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Solar is shining… on city buildings!
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Central office is the latest public safety building not just getting solar panels but also investing in batteries to store that energy.
Battery storage is a necessary sidekick to solar, explains Rodney James, the technology development manager at Duke Energy’s Research and Development facility.
“We actually eliminate a lot of those losses because we only have to do it one time,” James said.
But transferring and storing usable energy more efficiently is this sidekick’s superpower.
They convert direct current from the sun into alternating current at their facility all the time, but this battery can merge the electricity highway to make the process less complicated.
“We can use that solar production in the battery, that’s already being stored in the battery for powering a home or powering any facility at night when solar is not being created,” said James.
The setup created with climate tech startup Yotta Energy is meant to be tested at a small scale before it heads to its bigger, more permanent home.
“They’re going to be right here on this roof and the battery storage will go underneath it.”
More than 44,000 kilowatt hours of battery storage will help offset 11 percent of CMPD Central’s electricity use, all powered by the sun.
“We were looking for places that don’t have a tree canopy coverage so we can make sure we can really harness the power of that sun without it being blocked by trees.”
Chief Sustainability and Resiliency Officer Sarah Hazel says this addition makes it the 27th city building with solar, about to get solar, or being designed to house solar panels.
But most importantly, CMPD Central is the first to have the crucial solar sidekick, a battery. Hazel explains, “This is really unique because it fits underneath the solar panels. It doesn’t need thermal regulation, so it doesn’t need to temperatures cooled, and we don’t need to create an additional space for the battery. This saves us money, that’s more efficient, and it can extend the life of the solar when the sun’s not shining.”
Fifty percent of Charlotte’s city-wide greenhouse gas emissions come from how we power our buildings. That’s why the city decided to “Power Down the Crown” — a new initiative to reduce energy use by 10 percent by 2030.
Hazel reflects, “This is going to be an incredible part of the puzzle to work towards a low carbon future, both with our municipal buildings and really out in the community. We’re excited to see how it works, to share how it works and hopefully to scale.”
Another group eager to share their best practices is Joules Accelerator, “Our customer is the entrepreneur, we’re focused on getting them market traction in the region and again the overall goal is to decarbonize the Carolinas.”
Bob Irvin is the Executive Director of the clean tech nonprofit that aims to connect startups with big corporations and cities to speed up innovation. “It’s pretty critical that every little thing counts, it’s not just the big home runs, a lot of singles turn intro triples,” he reflects.
Joules contributed $20,000 to this project that connected startup Yotta Energy to the more well-known giant Duke Energy.
That big corporate stamp of approval gets them exposure and credibility not just to work with Charlotte, but to have the innovation spread. Irvin explains, “There’s a lot of innovation in this space and it’s not dependent on slow-moving research organizations anymore. It’s out there, it’s in the field, and people want it, and that’s what’s so cool about it.”
These partnerships get technology and innovation into diverse and underserved communities, Hazel adds, “I think it really positions this part of the country to lead the charge when it comes to a clean energy future.”
This is important work so we can all fuel a cleaner, more resilient….and sunnier future.
“That’s so important, not only because I live here, and I have children and I care about this, but it can help benefit beyond our community and our footprint, but a much larger impact,” reflects Hazel.
The panels and its innovative batteries are set to be installed by the end of the year.