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Duke Energy using renewable natural gas in first-of-its-kind project in NC

US-based energy utility major Duke Energy Inc. has announced that a Duke Energy power plant is using pipeline quality renewable natural gas (RNG) from North Carolina (NC) based pig farms to produce electricity – the first application of the technology from in-state farms.

Announced in 2016, Optima KV is a first-of-its-kind project in North Carolina. Multiple biogas streams are upgraded to RNG and injected into the natural gas grid transporting it to a Duke Energy power plant (photo courtesy Duke Energy).

This is a major breakthrough for renewable energy in North Carolina. This project allows for the capture of emissions from hog operations and converts the renewable natural gas to electricity for customers.  We look forward to continuing our work on future projects, said David Fountain, President Duke Energy North Carolina.

Sometimes called directed biogas, the Optima KV project in Duplin County captures methane gas from the hog waste of five anaerobic digesters on three local farms. The biogas is piped to a central location where the gas is cleaned and upgraded to biomethane, a pipeline-quality natural gas (renewable natural gas – RNG).

Announced in 2016, the Optima KV project is expected to yield about 11 GWh annually of electricity – enough to power about 1 000 homes. The project has begun to inject the renewable natural gas into the Piedmont Natural Gas system which transports it to Duke Energy’s Smith Energy Complex in Richmond County where it is used to produce electricity.

Biogas is such a rich resource for the state, especially for North Carolina’s agriculture industry.Harvesting unused organics such as swine manure from farms can create a new business opportunity for farmers, provide an in-state source of energy fuel and improve the sustainability of the agriculture and energy sectors. It’s a win-win, said Gus Simmons of Cavanaugh & Associates, a partner of OptimaBio.

Historically, renewable natural gas has been used by smaller, on-site generators that are connected to the overall energy grid. Using Duke Energy’s larger, more efficient plants allow more renewable energy to be created with the same amount of RNG. OptimaBio is a swine waste-to-energy project developer and the leader in RNG development for North Carolina.

Optima KV is just the first of more projects where directed biogas will be used at Duke Energy power plants to create efficient renewable energy. Getting projects to a meaningful scale is important as we advance this innovative technology, said Fountain.

The project will help Duke Energy satisfy state swine waste-to-energy mandates under the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard law in North Carolina. Under this law, Duke Energy must generate 0.20 percent of its retail sales from swine waste by 2023.

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