Duke Energy

solar panels
Strata Solar

A new six megawatt solar farm is under construction the Orange County community of White Cross. When it’s completed, it will be the second largest in the Triangle. The project is being designed by Chapel Hill based company, Strata Solar. The firm's Blair Schoof says when it's up and running, the 35-acre farm will provide energy for about 750 homes.

Strata Solar is the state's largest solar developer, responsible for generating more than 145 megawatts around the state. Schoof says two farms in the Triangle area are already operational with eight more planned for next year.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland

Duke Energy has reached a tentative settlement with state regulators regarding lawsuits over leaks from its coal ash ponds in Asheville and on the Catawba River.  The company has agreed to pay a $100,000 fine.  The consent order would require the company to determine the cause and the extent of those leaks into groundwater and into Mountain Island Lake, the source of Charlotte’s water supply.  Susan Massengale with the state division of water quality says the agreement lays out a timeline for Duke to do that.

The Shearon Harris nuclear power plant
Nuclear Regulatory Commission / nrc.gov

Federal regulators are investigating the Shearon Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh. They want to know how a flaw in the reactor vessel went undetected or unreported for over a year. News & Observer reporter John Murawski fills in host Frank Stasio on the latest.

An electrical power substation in Orange County.
Laura Candler

Duke Energy Progress has completed upgrades to substations in Durham and Greensboro designed to cut down on copper thefts. 

The company has changed the wire it uses, added security cameras and installed more lighting to keep thieves away.  Authorities have reported frequent copper thefts from the Parkwood Tie Station in Durham and the Main Substation in Greensboro.  The metal goes for nearly $3.00 a pound in resale.

An aerial view of the site.
Duke Energy

A large parcel of undeveloped land near Siler City has been chosen by Duke Energy to take part in the utility's Site Readiness Program. The utility selected a total of 17 sites in the Carolinas, ten of which are in North Carolina. Duke Energy's Jeff Brooks says the 1700-acre Chatham County tract will be assessed for its potential to lure large industry and manufacturing to the area and calls it a "win-win" for everyone.

Stumps like this one have become more common in Greensboro neighborhoods. Duke energy says it cuts when necessary. Residents think the company is being too aggressive.
Jeff Tiberii

Some residents in Greensboro are eagerly awaiting the details of a proposed tree ordinance. A city council subcommittee finished the draft for the ordinance this week, but it has not yet been made public.

The new measure comes in response to a dispute between property owners and Duke Energy over the company’s practice of cutting trees.  Nancy Vaughan is an at-large City Council member who helped write the ordinance draft.

"We were able to protect private property as well as public right of way," says  Vaughan.

One of Progress Energy's solar energy farms.
Duke Energy/Progress Energy

The North Carolina utility company Progress Energy is among the nations leaders in solar production. Last year the utility company produced almost 70 megawatts of new solar generating capacity. The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) says that’s the 8th highest output of all U.S. utility companies.

Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired generating facility in Gaston County, NC.  Riverbend will be retired by 2015 as part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants.
Duke Energy via Flickr, Creative Commons

A new study from Duke University says new air quality standards could spur a shift away from coal power to natural gas as a means of generating electricity.  A natural gas boom has already made it almost as cheap as coal to turn into electricity, but when researchers factored in new emissions standards from the Environmental Protection Agency, they found that most coal electricity will become as expensive as gas, even if gas prices rise.

Stumps like this one have become more common in Greensboro neighborhoods. Duke energy says it cuts when necessary. Residents think the company is being too aggressive.
Jeff Tiberii

Greensboro residents are upset with Duke Energy again over its tree trimming practices in the city, this time because of pruning around major transmission lines. Concerned locals are taking to Facebook and asking local leaders to do more.

A series of hearings begins today to examine how Duke Energy wants to invest in power sources over the next 20 years.  The state Utilities Commission is set to hear from the utility and consumer advocacy groups about its annual Integrated Resource Plan.  Duke Energy spokesman Mike Hughes says the utility plans to open new plants to keep up with North Carolina's population growth.

"Even if the per-household use of electricity is declining, the overall use of electricity is increasing," Hughes says.

Duke Energy officials have decided to retire a controversial nuclear facility in Florida.  They say it will be more cost effective to shut down the Crystal River facility than to repair it.  Regulatory leaders in North Carolina and Florida discussed Crystal River's future during the merger of Duke Energy and  Progress Energy.  Spokesman Mike Hughes says the utility used a repair scenario analysis to make the decision.

The first of three City Council subcommittee meetings takes place Monday morning as lawmakers begin drafting a new tree ordinance for the city. Strong turnout is expected from residents, many of who were outraged last month after Duke Energy cut down dozens of trees in residential neighborhoods.

Credit Jeff Tiberii

Many residents in Greensboro are upset with Duke Energy over the company's practice of pruning, and in some cases cutting, neighborhood trees. Frustrated citizens started two Facebook groups, collected 15-hundred signatures for a petition and demanded that local leaders step in and help.

Ten Years ago sub contractors for Duke Energy made the rounds in several Greensboro neighborhoods, trimming and cutting trees that were too close to power lines. It sent residents who felt the pruning was too aggressive into an uproar. They complained to elected officials and Duke eventually heard about it, but nothing really changed. In fact nothing really happened at all. Last month crews returned to some neighborhoods for the first time in a decade.

State regulators have accepted the terms of a settlement with Duke Energy over its merger with Progress Energy.

The utility commission's vote was unanimous on the agreement terms announced last week. Duke Energy will move ahead with changes that include Jim Rogers' retirement as C-E-O. He plans to spend another year running the company But spokesman Tom Williams says Rogers could step away sooner.

The state attorney general's office is going before the state Supreme Court to challenge a rate increase for Duke Energy.

North Carolinians are stepping up to help people in the mid-Atlantic and New England states affected by the storm. Duke Energy is sending crews to help restore power. Dave Scanzoni is a spokesman for the utility.

Dave Scanzoni:" Duke Energy has committed to send about 12-hundred line workers to the Northeast and impacted areas from Hurricane Sandy. These crews will mostly be contractors that work full time for Duke Energy largely in Florida and some from our territories in Indiana as well."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will check the Harris nuclear plant near Raleigh to ensure Duke Energy has fixed an unreported problem.

Progress Energy ran the plant before this year's merger with Duke Energy. An air conditioning system at an emergency operations facility was not in top working order starting in 2009. The utility fixed the problem two years later. Duke Energy spokeswoman Julie Milstead says the utility thought the issue was over. She says, "We did not report that to the NRC because we did not think it met the criteria for reportability."

Duke Energy may have to pay billions of dollars to repair the Crystal River nuclear plant in Florida.

A Charlotte engineering firm says the cost to fix a cracking outer-concrete layer of the containment unit could reach 3-point-4 billion dollars. Utility spokesman Mike Hughes says that's a worst-case scenario.

Mike Hughes: "Including having to do additional repair work that is not part of the planned repair scope."

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers was in Florida's capital of Tallahassee yesterday to testify before power regulators there. the members of the Florida Public Service Commission questioned Rogers on the leadership change at the utility and about a failing nuclear facility in that state. Rogers said despite the issues the company faces, the Sunshine State is important to the company's future.

Duke Energy announced its first in a series of rate cuts.

Leoneda Inge:  Duke Energy and Progress Energy promised if the companies were allowed to merge they would implement millions of dollars in utility rate cuts one month after the merger was approved.  The first round of cuts comes to about 89-million dollars.

Inge:  Yeah, I was just about to say, it’s about a dollar a month, hugh?

Tom Williams: It’s about a dollar month, but you know we have just begun this process

Some new legal minds will be taking a look at the controversial Duke Energy-Progress Energy merger.

Duke Energy is looking for new board members since the resignation of two former Progress Energy directors. 

The watch-dog group NC Warn continues to fight against the merger of Duke Energy and Progress Energy.  Yesterday the group filed motions with state regulators to try to re-open the merger hearings.

Leoneda Inge:  One claim NC Warn is making involves more than two-billion dollars Duke Energy plans to spend repairing and upgrading Progress Energy’s nuclear plants.   Jim Warren is executive director of NC Warn. He says Duke Power never disclosed that figure during the merger hearings. Warren fears customers will end up paying in the end.

There were signs early in the Duke-Progress Energy merger process that Bill Johnson would not have a long tenure at the combined company.  Ann Gray is the lead director on the Duke Energy board of directors.   She told the North Carolina Utilities Commission today the board did not have a good impression of Johnson at one of their first meetings in 2010.

Ann Gray:  He did describe himself as being an individual who likes to learn but not be taught. That was an expression that stayed with our board and we watched for that to develop.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission spent hours yesterday questioning ousted Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson.  The former Progress Energy leader says he was stunned by the controversial turn of events that transpired once the two companies merged.

Edward Finley:  There were no issues with respect to who would be the president and who would be the CEO.

Bill Johnson:  No, there were a lot of interesting questions and issues in the hearings, but that was not one of them.

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