Environment

Guilford County is in the running for a massive solar power project.

National Solar Power of Melbourne, Florida has selected seven finalists for what it says will be the “world’s largest solar farm” – and Guilford County is on the list.  Gail Vadia is a spokeswoman for the Greensboro Partnership – a community and economic development organization in Guilford County. She says National Solar Power has already been in contact with land-owners.

Firefighters took a step forward this week in controlling North Carolina's wildfires. Forestry officials say the blaze in Dare County was fully contained Monday night. But Division of Forest Resources spokesman Chris Carlson says firefighters still face the daunting task of putting it out.

Chris Carlson: "There are some areas within the interior that are just too far to get water to, so they may continue to smolder for a while. The peat soil is deep, so the only thing that we can do is monitor it and wait for Mother Nature itself to put it out with lots of rain."

A North Carolina law goes into effect this week that bans electronics from landfills. Starting Friday, materials like computer equipment and televisions will have to go to local recycling facilities. Lowell Shaw of Wake County Waste Management says the law keeps elements in electronics hardware like cadmium and mercury from seeping into groundwater.

New Research at North Carolina State University points to the disadvantages of improperly disposing of biodegradable plastics. The products are designed to break down in composting bins. James Levis is an N.C. State PhD candidate and one of the study's organizers. He says the problem is that most biodegradable plastics are being thrown in the trash.

North Carolina National Guard troops are helping battle the huge wildfires in Arizona. About three dozen guard members are flying airborne tankers dropping chemical fire retardant on the blazes. Lieutenant Colonel Rose Dunlap is with the 145th Airlift Wing based in Charlotte. She says logistics for fighting such large fires are complex.

NC Clean Energy Data Book
energync.org

People interested in North Carolina's clean energy economy will now find much of what they're looking for in one source. The non-profit North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association has released a book that compiles various data, maps, and charts on North Carolina's green infrastructure.
Spokeswoman Julie Robinson says there isn't just one dominant source of clean energy.

Unseasonably hot temperatures last week exacerbated drought conditions along the coast of North Carolina. Eight new eastern counties have been added to the severe drought list. Most of central North Carolina is experiencing abnormal to moderate drought conditions. State Climatologist Ryan Boyles says the drought has been worsening for a while.

Dare County Commissioners are holding a series of public meetings next week to address long-term implications of the wildfire there. The blaze started more than six weeks ago when lightning struck in an area of peat soil near Stumpy Point. Firefighters say it could smolder for months and light new fires. Some commissioners worry that could keep visitors from coming to the Outer Banks this summer. Warren Judge is the chair of the Dare County Board of Commissioners. He says smoke conditions vary day by day based on wind direction.

A team from N.C. State could win a national competition today to design an environmentally friendly car. There are sixteen teams in the finals of the Eco Car contest being held in Washington this week. The winner will be announced later today. Jonathan Lohr is an assistant team leader for the Wolfpack. He says their car uses electricity and a bio-diesel engine.

An elementary school in Fayetteville that was damaged by an April 16th tornado could reopen sooner than expected. One of the strongest tornadoes that touched down that day blew much of the roof off Ben Martin Elementary School. No one was injured in the incident. Students have been going to class at two other schools nearby. Administrators said they hoped to get students back to Ben Martin by December. But principal Crystal Brown says they now expect to move in at the end of October.

This year's harsh winter has led to a steep decline in North Carolina's shrimp catch. That's according to state wildlife officials, who say cold waters killed the majority of white shrimp in North Carolina water. That species usually spends the winter near the shore and swims out to sea around the beginning of June. Carlyle Gilgo is a seafood dealer in the town of Sealevel near Morehead City. He says he hasn't caught any shrimp yet this year.

The Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center has released 41 turtles on Topsail Island. More than 4 hundred school children came from surrounding counties to watch yesterday's event. The turtles were escorted down the beach and gently returned to their ocean home. Many of the turtles that were released had been found stunned in last winter's cold water. Jean Beasley, the center's director, said sea turtles are crucial to human survival.

Local business owners in northeastern North Carolina say the Dare County wildfire hasn't stopped tourists from coming to the beach. The blaze started more than three weeks ago and covers nearly 28,000 acres in and around the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Forecasters say Dare County is still under heavy smoke and fog advisories for some areas. But Paul Charron says it was business as usual this weekend at his restaurant in Manteo. 

Cicadas Inspire Love, Frustration

May 30, 2011

 Residents around the Triangle have been serenaded by the drone of 13-year cicadas for several weeks now. Among some, the orange and black visitors have inspired awe and sometimes devotion. 

After living underground for 13 years, the insects have crawled into tree tops where cicada males are serenading females. Caroline Christopher lives out in the woods north of Chapel Hill

Pigs just before auction, hogs,
Chris Cioffi

  Durham County Animal Shelter officials auctioned off five little pigs today. The young piglets made headlines two months ago after they turned up on interstate forty blocking traffic. The porkers have been living in a converted dog pen at the Durham County Animal Shelter. Lee Sackett of C-J Acres Animal Rescue Farm in Keystone Heights, Florida was the winning bidder. He paid $3,200 for the pigs.

Debris from last month's tornadoes that hit central North Carolina is still being cleaned up. In Raleigh, officials are advising residents to get the rest of their yard debris out to the curb by June first. There is also an effort by city workers to clear streams and rivers of downed trees that could contribute to flooding. Steve Abbot works for the state Department of Transportation. He says contractors are still collecting debris outside of Raleigh as well. 

Geologists say North Carolina's natural gas reserves in one Piedmont sub-basin could power the state for 40 years. The North Carolina Geological Survey completed research last week that suggests a basin underneath Lee, Chatham and Moore Counties is rich in natural gas deposits. State Geological Survey chief Kenneth Taylor says North Carolina sent samples to federal geologists to confirm the findings.

A former Alcoa smelting plant in Stanly County will now be home to an electronics recycling center. 

bear on allk 4s
National Park Service

  People from Greensboro to Garner have been spotting black bears in recent days. Officials say it's the time of year juveniles typically venture out of their home habitats in search of a new place to live. Colleen Olfenbuttel is a biologist with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. She says bear sightings in the Triangle and Triad are becoming more frequent.

Residents of North Carolina are being urged to get ready for hurricane season which officially begins next week. Forecasters and other officials are using this week to highlight some of things you can do to prepare for the big storms. Jeff Orrock is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh. He says a busy forecast means its time to get supplies like food, water, medicine and batteries purchased and organized.

The pirate Blackbeard's flagship is the focus of a spring dive that begins May 23rd. The Queen Anne's Revenge went down off the North Carolina coast in June, 1718. Recovery efforts have been underway for years at the site of the wreck near Beaufort. Mark Wilde-Ramsing is the state underwater archeologist and is heading up the project. He says there are several goals for the two-week dive.

Solar energy industry leaders are gathered in Raleigh for a 5 day national conference. It's the 40th year for the National Solar Conference held by the American Solar Energy Society. This year it's being held at the Raleigh Convention Center. The public is invited to the final day of the conference this Saturday.

A new study from Duke University explains the source of salinity in well water on the Outer Banks. Professor Avner Vengosh directed the study. He says salinity levels are rising in wells on the Outer Banks. 

Avner Vengosh: "But our study shows the salinity is not derived from sea water intrusion as some had feared before, but its rather from flow of natural occurring ground water originated from fossil sea water."

Firefighters continue to fight a large blaze burning in northeastern North Carolina. Officials reported progress Monday in protecting homes and business from the fire. It started last Thursday in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Spokesman Bill Sweet says favorable weather conditions allowed firefighters to burn land in the path of the fire to keep it from spreading further.

There's new evidence that the method of extracting natural gas called "hydraulic fracturing" could be contaminating drinking water. A team of Duke researchers have found elevated levels of methane in well water near hydraulic fracturing sites. That could be an important finding as state legislators consider whether to begin allowing the practice here in North Carolina. Natural gas deposits have been discovered deep under some of the state's most populated counties like Wake, Durham, and Orange.

More schools around the state are flying color-coded flags to let students and staff know about poor air quality conditions. The flags correspond with the Air Quality Index. Health officials say people with breathing sensitivities should be careful on code orange, red, or purple days. Allison Davis with the E-P-A says the Triangle usually gets several code orange days each summer.

Ari Friedlaender with Humpback whale in Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica
Alison Stimpert, University of Hawaii

  Duke scientists are finding record numbers of humpback whales feeding on krill on the Western Antarctic Peninsula. A new report shows scientists observed more than 300 whales in a bay in May 2009. Scientists say a sheet of ice should have prevented whales from feeding on krill by that time of year. But Duke’s Ari Friedlaender says climate change is shortening the winter season and ice is forming slowly. So the krill are exposed for feeding.

A dam breach in Moore County didn't put the public in danger. But it did serve as a reminder of the many dams in North Carolina that could be more dangerous if they failed. Mell Nevils, Chief of the Land Quality Section of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which includes the North Carolina Dam Safety Program, says the dam in Moore County was classified as an "intermediate hazard" meaning there was a likelihood of property damage in the event of a failure.

The Amazon Rain Forest is being threatened by a gold rush. A new study from Duke University shows that surface mining is eating up large chunks of the forest in Peru. Jennifer Swenson is an assistant professor who worked on the project. She says satellite photos help assess how much land is being affected.

Jennifer Swenson: "I looked at two main mining sites that are new and over two years 1800 hectares of primary forest was removed. Think of that in terms of football fields, its actually 4 and a half football fields a day."

There's a new effort underway to reduce pollution in Durham. A number of the city's diesel vehicles have been fitted with emissions reduction equipment similar to that used to cut nitrogen oxide levels from power plants. Stephen Piccot is the Director of The Southern Research Institute and is in charge of the pilot project.

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