Investor Alert: Duke Energy’s New Solar Concept Has Potential to Supercharge Solar & Smart Grid Companies

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If you are a day trader, don’t bother reading this. But if you are an investor looking for insight into how a lot of money may be made in energy in the coming months and years, read on.

Duke Energy just said it plans to test a concept which, in’s opinion, has the potential to revolutionize the solar power industry even before it has taken root. Duke’s plan envisions turning rooftops into solar power collectors. Nothing new about that, right?

Wrong. Duke is going to test the idea of linking hundreds of solar-power-collecting rooftops into a unique kind of power plant, one that’s the opposite of today’s power plants. Today’s plants generate electricity from a central location and transmit it over lines into millions of homes, offices and factories. Duke’s idea is for a completely de-centralized power plant, one that generates electricity remotely and then feeds that power into the grid at the same point where power from a central plant is being delivered.

Duke’s test will involve rooftops at some 850 locations in North Carolina. Not just homeowners but schools and other buildings will be involved. Public support could be strong, given that Duke plans to pay a rental fee to participants. (Every school board in America might warm to that idea.)

If Duke’s test works – and it’s still very much an “if” – just imagine the increase in business that might come the way of companies that make solar chips and panels, as well as inverter manufacturers and more. Imagine also the companies that could benefit from making the computer chips and other software that would be needed to make the power grid “smart,” essentially enabling a simultaneous two-way flow of electricity into and out of your home.

Duke’s test calls for generating 16 megawatts of electricity from those 850 locations. Think about how many rooftops there are – and how anxious people might be to rent their roofs to their local utility – and it’s easy see how, within a decade or less, not just the solar power industry but the entire electric utility industry could be radically transformed. To be sure, solar power will continue to grow, which no doubt is why Duke is conducting its test. Either Duke and other electric utilities figure out a way to keep their customers in the fold, or they risk losing them to suppliers of solar systems that promise to take homes “off the grid.”

What about cost? Duke says a de-centralized solar power plant can be expected to cost significantly more than a traditional centralized station. But if the concept proves scaleable, it could cost less to install solar panels than to buy the land and construct a new plant. And that’s before taking into account the obvious strategic advantage of holding on to one’s customers.

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