Company says plan has the potential to save customers money and, possibly, delay need for new power plants.
Duke Energy unveiled its first glimpse of "smart grid" technology in the Charlotte area on Tuesday with an array of 213 solar panels in south Charlotte's McAlpine neighborhood.
The panels, mounted at a substation on Pineville-Matthews Road, will produce 50 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power five homes. The electricity can be sent directly to area distribution lines or charge a massive, 500-kilowatt storage battery that will help stabilize power availability at times of high demand.
Over the past year, Duke has installed 8,100 "smart meters" in area homes, giving customers new details on their home power usage. Digital communications equipment mounted on utility poles and power lines will feed new data about power outages and other problems.
Duke also has enlisted about 100 McAlpine households to test Web-based energy management systems that allow them to fine-tune their electricity use.
David Mohler, Duke's chief technology officer, called McAlpine a "smart-grid laboratory" for technology that is expected to see wider use during coming years. "It allows us to figure out, how do you use these assets in tandem?"
Duke expects to invest $1billion in smart grid over the next five years.