By Tonya Maxwell
Several area environmental groups are questioning Duke Energy’s planned natural gas facility at Lake Julian and are asking to be heard on the proposal as it is considered by state utility regulators.
In response to a recent Duke Energy Progress filing to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the environmental groups MountainTrue and The Sierra Club on Tuesday filed a petition requesting commissioners allow them to intervene in the decision-making process.
Though the filing doesn’t outline the concerns of the groups, MountainTrue co-director Julie Mayfield in a statement said her organization questions the need for a 192-megawatt peaking unit at the plant – one that would usually be used only when energy consumption reaches its highest demand.
“We want Duke to be all in on seeking alternatives to the third unit instead of building in a back door, and we are asking them to send a clear message that they are fully committed to finding cleaner, sustainable alternatives by removing the peaking unit from their filing to the utilities commission,” Mayfield wrote.
A week ago, Duke Energy Progress filed a document with the utilities commission indicating the company would submit an application on about Jan. 15 to build two 280-megawatt natural gas-fired units and the peaking unit, each with fuel-oil back up.
The primary turbines would replace the existing coal-fired plant and are expected to come online in late 2019, while the peaking unit would possibly begin operation 2023, according to the filing.
The utility has said it also plans to install solar generation at the site, but the document indicates its size and configuration will be determined after plans for the demolition of the coal units are more complete.
The filing by the Asheville environmental groups comes a day after the Durham-based organization, North Carolina Waste Awareness and Reduction Network, better known as NC WARN, and The Climate Times of Boone also asked to intervene in the Duke utility docket.
Those groups want utility commissioners to investigate the costs and impacts of the entire facility.