Duke Energy will replace its coal plant in Asheville with two smaller gas units rather than one large one as originally planned. The move comes after the public flooded Duke with more than 9,000 comments over proposed transmission lines through the western Carolinas. Duke says the transmission lines will no longer be necessary. A third plant could be built in 2023 if the company finds it necessary. Plans to install solar panels at the site remain unchanged.
Duke Energy spokesman Tim Pettit says the two smaller plants can act essentially as backup for each other, eliminating the need for transmission lines to a substation in Campobello, South Carolina. Duke Energy's Robert Sipes says the company was surprised at the volume of the comments. Another Duke executive, Lloyd Yates, says the process of feedback "worked."
Also speaking at the news conference at the Lake Julian Power Plant was NC Senator Tom Apodaca, Republican of Hendersonville. He said he and Rep. Chuck McGrady, also a Republican of Henderson County were in contact with each other and Duke to find a remedy to the situation. McGrady released a statement saying Duke Energy should be commended for heeding the concerns of Henderson County residents. WCQS's Jeremy Loeb spoke with Apodaca after the news conference.
Asheville mayor Esther Manheimer also spoke, praising Duke for its efforts and for its efforts on coal ash cleanup, saying Asheville hoped to be a "partner" with the company in the city's goal of reducing carbon emissions. Newly-elected Asheville city councilwoman Julie Mayfield attended but did not speak at the news conference.
Below you can hear an interview with Duke Energy spokeman Tim Pettit.