Duke Energy abandons North Carolina; wind-power company steps in



It seems everyone but Duke Energy thinks North Carolina is a good place to generate electricity though wind power. As reported by WUNC 91.5 radio, Invenergy, a Chicago-based utility, wants to build an 80-megawatt wind farm in eastern North Carolina. The company has applied to state officials for the OK to build a site with 49 turbines in Beaufort County. Here’s hoping the N.C. Utilities Commission approves the application ASAP, since local government and federal regulators would still need to approve the wind farm. Still, the company expects to be able to start producing energy by the end of 2012.

Compare that to Duke Energy which, after much talk about how green the company planned to be, canceled a measly three-turbine demonstration project in Pamlico Sound last August. The reason for the cancellation was the high price, estimated by Duke at $145 million, including decommissioning costs. As we pointed out then, Duke could have easily tapped the $1 billion+ in funds it has put aside for future decommissioning of nuclear plants — especially relevant now when the future of the U.S. nuclear power industry is in limbo following the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan. Instead, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers told the state utilities commission in March that "North Carolina doesn't have any wind [energy potential]."

Rogers' claim was, and still is, astonishing, coming as it does after two well-publicized national studies concluded that North Carolina leads the East Coast in wind power capacity. One of the studies said North Carolina is one of three states, along with Delaware and Massachusetts, that are capable of generating all the power they need through offshore wind power alone. Those studies are in addition to Obama administration plans to accelerate offshore wind energy development in the mid-Atlantic states, including N.C. Luckily for Invenergy, they’re a much smaller company than Duke, so they were able to respond quickly to an obvious opportunity. Meanwhile, Duke the behemoth stays busy dreaming of ain’t-gonna-happen nukes, and of becoming even bigger and more unwieldy after the proposed merger with Progress Energy. Here is a video about the basics of generating electricity with wind power.

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