What Tesla Wants and Renewables Need

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK  ) is developing a not-so-secret technology -- and it's not the only one. If Mr. Market decides its innovation is up to snuff, the energy company's earnings will be absolutely electrified. Here's what you need to know.

It just keeps going and going and going and ...
Duke Energy is boosting its batteries. The company announced this week that its Notrees Battery Storage Project has taken top place for utility-scale energy storage at the 2013 Energy Storage North America Conference and Expo.

While storing 36 MW of electricity may not mean much for traditional base load energies with veritable on-off switches, it means the world to wind. The Notrees project tag teams with Duke's 153 MW Wind Power project, allowing the facility to pump power into the system when it needs it -- not just when there's a brisk breeze.

"Incorporating energy storage will make the electric industry more efficient," said Jeff Gates, managing director in Duke Energy's Commercial Transmission business, and lead developer on the project. "This project has proven the technology can be deployed at commercial scale -- and the flexibility and speed of response has provided tremendous benefit to the grid operator."

Source: NextEra Energy.

Power when you want it
Duke Energy has more than 1,000 MW of wind, but its capacity pales in comparison with renewable-energy leader NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE  ) . NextEra operates 100 wind farms across the states and Canada that net more than 10,000 MW of generating capacity. That's 57% of NextEra's entire fleet of power producers.

NextEra may not win any awards for its own innovation, but its General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) -produced wind turbines are tackling energy storage issues via smarter technology. Its latest products are capable of using a short-term battery storage system that functions in conjunction with predictive software to let it know when the wind's blowing -- and when it's not.

Consistency at sea
While Duke, NextEra, and General Electric continue to explore storage opportunities, Dominion (NYSE: D  ) and NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG  ) have successfully bid for long-term leases on federal ocean acreage ideal for offshore wind.

Offshore wind has long been touted as stronger and more consistent than its land-based counterparts, partially eliminating the need to worry about batteries or smart energy storage. A 2012 report estimates total offshore capacity at four times the nation's total current generation. But viable large-scale development is a long way off, and the U.S. has yet to erect its first offshore turbine.

Will batteries win?
Residential households and Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) drivers have one thing in common: They need energy on demand. A neighborhood doesn't want rolling blackouts when the wind dies down, and Tesla drivers don't want their electric "fuel tanks" hitting "E" anywhere on the road.

Duke's recent award is just a pat on the back for heading in the right direction -- but it's heading in the right direction. With federal grants to keep R&D costs low and operational wind farms to run real-life experiments, battery technology should continue to improve. And if the powers of the markets combine to make wind and energy storage competitive, Duke will snag center stage on sales.

The next industrial revolution
Storage capacity could change the energy sector, and there are other companies out there redefining their own sectors. With the U.S. relying on the rest of the world for such a large percentage of our goods, many investors are ready for the end of the "made in China" era. Well, it may be here. Read all about the biggest industry disruptors since the personal computer in "3 Stocks to Own for the New Industrial Revolution." Just click here to learn more.


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