Energy & Environment

News and information about energy, environment or both from Charlotte and the Carolinas. 

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David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy shareholders elected a smaller board and approved one of two shareholder proposals at their annual meeting Thursday morning.

Duke Energy

  Duke Energy's profits fell in the first quarter compared with a year ago because of weather issues and income lost from operations it sold. But executives say the company is on track to meet its profit target for the full year. 

Warmer weather this winter reduced demand for energy - and Duke's revenues. And cleanups after winter storms pushed up costs. At the same time, Duke’s revenues declined because of the sale of its Midwest power generation division a year ago.

Still, chief financial officer Steve Young called it a "solid quarter,"

gaston solar project
Duke Energy Renewables

Duke Energy's commercial power business has bought six solar projects in eastern North Carolina. 

Duke Energy Renewables says all six sites were developed by Pennsylvania-based Community Energy. 

Duke Energy Solar farm near Elizabeth City NC
Duke Energy

Duke Energy says it’s on track to beat its goal for renewable energy use over the next few years, so it’s raising the bar. The pledge came in the company’s annual corporate sustainability report out Thursday.

The Conservation Fund and private donors have assembled about 2,700 acres of land north and west of Mount Mitchell that will become part of the park. Here's a springtime view from Mount Mitchell.
David Boraks / WFAE

A Hairy Woodpecker tap-tap-taps on a pine tree just below the summit of Mount Mitchell. It’s a sunny spring day. It’s 46 degrees - about 10 degrees cooler than nearby Burnsville.

With the park now open after winter, superintendent Bryan Wilder says visitors are flocking here.  

CC0 Public Domain

Darwin called them “disgusting.”  The biblical books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy call them “unclean.”   Vultures have a generally bad reputation, but experts point out that the carnivorous birds play vital ecological roles.  

In recent decades, vulture populations around the world have been plummeting, primarily due to human behaviors. WFAE's Mark Rumsey got some insights on vultures from Dr. Corinne Kendall, Associate Curator of Conservation and Research at the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro. Dr. Kendall is involved in international efforts to protect endangered vultures. 

NC WARN owns the solar panels it installed on Faith Community Church in Greensboro, and had been selling electricity to the church. But it has stopped the sales, after an order by regulators.
NC WARN

State utility regulators ruled last week that a Durham nonprofit cannot install solar panels on a church, then charge for the electricity. It wasn’t a surprise - state law says only regulated utilities can do that. WFAE's Mark Rumsey talked to environmental reporter David Boraks about the case. 

Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

  North Carolina regulators next month will assign risk ratings to Duke Energy’s coal ash storage sites around the state. The ratings determine how and when the ash will be cleaned up. But what exactly does “cleanup” mean? There’s a big debate.

Duke Energy has agreed to refund $1.3 million to other utilities for overcharges uncovered in a federal audit following its 2012 merger with Progress Energy.

Duke imploded its retired Sutton coal-fired plant in 2016.
Duke Energy

 

  With a series of small blasts, workers imploded Boiler No. 1 at Duke Energy’s Sutton plant in Wilmington on Sunday. In a video on Duke Energy’s website, the steel hulk creaks, then crashes to the ground, throwing up a cloud of dust and debris.

Duke Energy's now-closed Cape Fear Steam Station is one of three covered in the ruling. Duke Energy is planning to excavate coal ash from several ponds at the site, and transfer it to the nearby Brickhaven land fill.
Duke Energy

A superior court judge in Raleigh has ordered Duke Energy to remove coal ash from three plants in eastern North Carolina. The ruling comes in lawsuits filed by environmentalists in 2013. 

CharlotteNC.gov

Ever since lead contamination in Flint, Michigan’s water began grabbing headlines, people have started wondering about their own tap water.  Water systems around the country have tried to reassure customers it’s safe.  

Here in Mecklenburg County, Charlotte Water is increasing testing and adjusting water treatment as it responds to concerns about water quality.

State environmental officials are suing the federal EPA again, this time over North Carolina’s possible inclusion on a list of states that contribute to air quality problems in the Northeast.

David Boraks / WFAE

  More than 150 people showed up at a hearing in Hickory Tuesday night to express concern about the 30 million tons of coal ash stored at Duke Energy’s Marshall Steam Station, on Lake Norman. Thirty-two speakers quoted biblical passages, read poetry and urged state regulators to require Duke to transfer the ash to new, lined landfills, away from the lake.    

Amy Brown of Belmont lives near Duke's Allen Steam Station and has been receiving bottled water since 2015. She spoke at a rally in March.
David Boraks / WFAE

 

Hundreds of people crowded public hearings in Rowan and Gaston counties Tuesday night for a chance to tell regulators what they think of coal-ash ponds near their homes.  At Gaston College, more than 30 speakers raised concerns about the ash stored for the past 60 years next to Duke’s Allen Steam Station, in Belmont.  

Carbon Cycle Energy

Duke Energy has signed a deal to buy natural gas recycled from swine and poultry waste generated at a new plant eastern North Carolina. The contract helps Duke meet state renewable energy rules and could help solve the problem of what to do with the state's growing amount of animal waste. 

NC Department of Environmental Quality

Two public hearings Tuesday will help state regulators decide how and when Duke Energy must deal with coal ash at plants in Belmont and Salisbury. 

David Boraks / WFAE

  The state Coal Ash Management Commission has quietly closed up shop, after Governor Pat McCrory won a battle with lawmakers over its legality. The news comes as the state seeks comments on proposed ratings for Duke Energy’s coal ash sites - something the commission was supposed to oversee.  

Utility Services Corp.

 It takes a lot to keep a water system healthy. In Union County this month, public works employees have been cleaning the water mains using an unusual procedure called “ice pigging.” We went to see how it works. 

The Particle Falls art installation from its March 2016 showing in Charlotte
David Boraks / WFAE

A light installation that went up Friday night on an uptown building is more than a work of art. It’s a bit of science, too, visualizing the quality of the air we breathe. WFAE environmental reporter David Boraks went to see it.

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