Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan


Tesla Battery Being Used In Duke Energy Florida & University of South Florida Solar Project

May 29th, 2015 by  

Florida has been far behind in the solar power revolution. Finding better direction, Duke Energy news shares that the company’s efforts towards pursuing clean energy solutions through university research will also involve storing energy from the sun. A solar battery project is bringing together Duke Energy Florida and the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg (USFSP).

The USFSP research project is seeking to learn more about renewable solutions and how to store and use energy from the sun. The project comes from a $1 million grant from Duke Energy.

Take a look at the top of USF, St. Petersburg’s 5th Avenue South parking garage. Installed on the roof is a 100-kilowatt (kW) solar photovoltaic (PV) system. A freestanding canopy of solar panels of this size with space beneath for parking can produce enough energy to power an electric car for half a million miles. The 100-kW solar array at USF, St. Petersburg, measures approximately 7,100 square feet. It has 318 individual panels.

Duke Energy’s press release continues with Alex Glenn, state president of Duke Energy Florida, stating: “This partnership gives Duke Energy and the University of South Florida additional firsthand experience in solar battery storage systems. The innovative and cutting-edge research also provides students a real-world learning environment as we develop alternative energy solutions for our customers.”

The 5th Avenue site system uses solar energy in the garage for lights, elevators, and electric-vehicle charging stations, and the rest is stored in battery systems or put on the electric grid for immediate use. Displayed on the USFSP campus is the high-resolution data collected on the PV installation. Thus, students can follow and learn from the energy storage system. The data are displayed on an online dashboard and several kiosks on the St. Petersburg campus.

As noted in the headline, the batteries used for the Duke Energy & USF project are reportedly coming from Tesla Energy. The press release doesn’t mention that, but Mark Shreiner of WUSF actually has a pic of Tesla Energy mechanical engineer Chad Conway explaining the battery system to Duke Energy Florida President Alex Glenn.

Being at the “utility-scale” level, Tesla “Powerpacks,” as we’re calling them for now, will be the battery systems used in this pilot project — rather than the more widely discussed Powerwalls. According to Tesla CEO and Product Architect Elon Musk, these utility-scale batteries come at a super-low price of $250/kWh and are competitive with any other battery storage systems on the market. Some much larger flow batteries come very close in the lifetime per-kWh price if you estimate a 30-year life and unlimited cycling for them. But note that the warranty period for the Imergy batteries is just 5–10 years, despite claims of unlimited cycling and long life. Another top competitor is the Eos Aurora 1000 | 6000 from Eos Energy Storage. It’s actually much cheaper according to company specs, but it’s not actually on the market yet. All in all, this makes Tesla’s batteries, based on widely used lithium-ion chemistry that has proven itself in many industries, an attractive option for those looking to inch their way into the use of energy storage. I’m curious to see what results we get from the Duke Energy and USF pilot project.


The funding for the new, larger energy storage system generates an opportunity to build upon existing battery technology. At the same time, operating in conjunction with two smaller, existing USF energy storage systems, a growing system evolves.

The Duke Energy Press release continues: “This is an opportunity to manage energy costs while promoting sustainability on campus,” said USFSP Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska. “We are pleased and proud to have been awarded this grant, and to provide faculty and students with a chance to help build something of lasting impact. USFSP has long enjoyed a strong partnership with Duke Energy and we look forward to future collaborations.”

A few more details from the press release:

“USFSP has an existing 2.0-kW solar energy system located at its Central Facilities Plant constructed in partnership with Duke Energy and the USF Tampa School of Engineering. Additionally, a series of solar panels provides power for decorative lights on campus.”

In other efforts, Duke Energy has a number of battery storage projects underway:

  • Duke Energy Florida’s SEEDS (Sustainable Electrical Energy Delivery Systems) program, which includes two battery storage projects at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg and the Albert Whitted Park, also in St. Petersburg. The two units combine energy storage systems with small solar arrays.
  • Twenty-four K-12 schools in the Duke Energy Florida service territory have received 25-kilowatt-hour battery backup systems funded by the company that are integrated with their solar PV installations. As with other battery storage projects at Duke Energy, there is performance monitoring of these systems to learn more about combining intermittent energy resources with storage. The installations also help foster educational opportunities for students at the schools.
  • The company’s Notrees Battery Storage Project in West Texas is North American’s largest battery storage installation project at a wind farm. Duke Energy matched a $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to install 36-megawatt (MW) large-scale batteries capable of storing electricity produced by its 153-MW Notrees wind farm.

In other hopeful news, CleanTechnica reports that a fair number of workers will have work from by Duke Energy via solar energy construction projects in North Carolina in the next few months: Duke Energy 900 Workers In North Carolina During Peak Solar Construction This Summer. The largest is at the Warsaw Solar Facility being constructed in Duplin County — a 65 MW project, but there’s also “the 40 MW Elm City Solar Facility being built in Wilson County and the 23 MW Fayetteville Solar project being constructed in Bladen County.”

It has not been so long since Florida’s Duke Energy announced plans to expand the company’s solar footprint. Its plan is to add up to 500 MW of utility-scale solar in Florida by 2024.

Related Stories:

NC Suspects Duke Energy Coal Ash In Water Well Poisoning

Insane Solar Jobs Boom About To Get $32 Million More Insane

Duke Energy Acquiring Majority Stake In REC Solar — Investing $225 Million Into Commercial Solar Projects

Duke Energy Attacks Rooftop Solar Energy (VIDEOS)

500 MW of Utility-Scale Solar in Florida by 2024 — 10 Year Plan from Duke Energy

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is a Mother, an Organic Farmer, Licensed Acupuncturist, Anthropology Studies, and mother of four unconditionally loving spirits, teachers, and environmentally conscious beings who have lit the way for me for decades.

  • vensonata

    I am guessing that there is a warranty on these batteries, but ya, sometimes batteries, like cars, can be lemons.

    • vensonata

      Above is reply to Bink.

      • bink

        I understand

  • timbuck93

    This is really great.

    What I’m noticing consistently, is that solar panels make everything below them, very dark. I hope that someone finds a way to make them more transparent so areas below the panels are brighter, and don’t make an area so dark.

    • Matt

      If you have ever park your car in the sun in Fla for the day. You would be happy to have your car in shade instead. It isn’t any different if you had park a level lower.

    • Calamity_Jean

      There’s PV panels with glass backs, called “bifacial”. Light that isn’t captured goes through and illuminates whatever is underneath.

      • timbuck93

        Would you happen to know how efficient they are compared to regular ones, maybe half etc?
        Thanks for letting me know about these.

        • Calamity_Jean

          AFAIK, they are roughly as efficient as the ones with opaque backs. Certainly not as bad as only half. Light that doesn’t get caught on the first pass through the panel sometimes bounces off whatever is underneath and gets used on the second trip through.

          • timbuck93

            Wow that’s amazing! Hope more research gets done with this!

          • Calamity_Jean

            Google “bifacial solar panels”.

    • That shade is actually a huge benefit in hot climates, and has been shown to have its own positive effect on energy usage and emissions as a result.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    That is funny, I read:

    LG Chem to Build Energy Storage System with U. S.’ Duke Energy
    “LG Chem said it will provide the operating system and batteries for the 2-megawatt project at the site of Duke’s closed coal plant in New Richmond by the end of the year. Detailed terms were not disclosed.”

    • Interesting… Looks like Duke Energy is trying out different options. May the best battery succeed! 😀

  • vensonata

    I think there is a substantial market for this 100kwh Tesla power block in off grid resorts. Coupled with a 20kw pv array you can really live large.
    But I am seeing even residential family houses in Canada with PV arrays of 12 kw on the roof. People find the price acceptable where house prices are so high. That is a lot of juice for a four person family. (I just visited one last week in Victoria, B.C.) I have a 12 kw array as well but it serves up to 20 people. And I am giving some thought to just buying a 100 kwh Tesla powerblock for storage, since I am off grid. Even if it lasted 20 years it would be $1250/year, or $100 per person per year for unlimited storage. These prices might sound daunting if you are grid connected, but if you are off grid the prices sound like a bargain compared to what you would have paid even 5 years ago.

    • bink

      they are not telling how that Powerblock was out of commission for several weeks while they tried to figure out why it would not work, Guess they replaced something , huh?

      • Offgridman

        Yes the interconnection breakers supplied by Duke turned out to be the wrong size (to weak), so they had to wait for replacements.
        Of course this is just a a rumor from one of the student participants and Duke refused to confirm, funny how that works out, isn’t it.

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