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Research & Development

2012 Corporate Responsibility Report

In 2011, we invested in a broad portfolio of research-and-development initiatives with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), local universities and research collaboratives.  In 2011, we invested approximately $8.1 million in a range of research programs and projects with EPRI and we expect to invest similarly in 2012. Of that total, approximately $5 million was related to renewable and alternative energy, energy efficiency, electric transportation and reducing our environmental impacts. 

R&D investment through EPRI

Highlights of our research efforts include:

  • Renewables:  Over the long term, adoption of renewable energy depends on renewable technologies that can be built and operated cost-effectively without subsidies.  Research in wind, photovoltaic, solar-thermal, biomass and hydropower technologies is leading to improvements in the performance of these technologies and improved understanding of our ability to integrate distributed and variable resources within our electric grid. 
  • Energy Storage:  Energy storage has the potential to play a significant role in facilitating large-scale integration of variable resources such as wind and solar, as well as the management of peak demands. Energy-storage technologies are now mature enough to become feasible for demonstration.  Nonetheless, there are significant gaps in understanding the application requirements for various storage technologies.  The information gained through EPRI research and technology demonstrations is helping us understand the value energy storage can have in helping address renewable energy integration and our shift to lower greenhouse gas-emitting resources.
  • Air and Multi-Media Toxics:  This EPRI research examines all aspects of trace substances across multiple environmental media (air, land and water) and conducts basic science research on potential human health effects and risks of numerous potentially toxic substances, including mercury, arsenic, selenium, nickel, chromium, cadmium, dioxins and other organics.
  • Fish Protection at Steam Electric Power Plants:  This research area addresses a primary challenge of ensuring adequate water supplies for power plant operations while protecting aquatic life living in the affected lakes, streams and rivers. Results from this research help us develop and assess technologies designed to protect fish at power plant cooling-water intake structures and to manage the thermal discharges into water resources. 
  • Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) Environmental Impacts and Beneficial Use: This research area provides scientific data and engineering knowledge for soil and groundwater protection methods associated with CCP storage, disposal and use. Research currently focuses on developing industry best practices for ash pond management and closure as well as the effects on CCP management options of new control technologies for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides. In addition, research on the beneficial uses for CCPs investigates new and emerging uses for CCPs and testing of products made with CCPs to ensure their environmental performance.

Beyond our significant collaborations with EPRI, we also actively partner with research consortia at local universities. 

  • We were the first electric utility member of the Southern Forest Resource Assessment Consortium (SOFAC). This consortium of researchers, led by scientists from NC State University, performs extensive modeling of forest resources and the changing markets for these resources. These efforts are helping us understand the competing market forces and potential land use changes that could develop as sustainable markets evolve for biomass power and for biofuel production.
  • We are also a full member of the Future Renewable Electric Energy & Management Center (FREEDM System Center). The FREEDM Center, headquartered on NC State University's Centennial Campus, was established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2008 and partners with universities, industry and national laboratories in 28 states and nine countries. One of the goals of FREEDM is to develop breakthrough technology in energy storage and power semiconductor devices that will speed renewable electric-energy technologies into every home and business.