Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: With the Duke Energy plant at Lake Julian, they switched over to natural gas, which is a good thing, but now they are dependent on a pipeline to bring that gas in. In the old days they probably had 30 days’ worth of coal stockpiled on site there. What kind of surplus of natural gas, if any, do they keep on site at Lake Julian now? Do they have tanks on site? How long would they last? If not, what happens if that pipeline goes down like the Colonial Pipeline just did?
Background:Top 10 things to know about Duke Energy’s proposed coal ash landfill at Lake Julian
My answer: I’m sure people will handle any possible power outage with the utmost courtesy and grace, just as they did with the recent gas shortage. And by that, I mean it will turn into “Mad Max Fury Road” within approximately two hours of an outage. I just bought an armored dune buggy and 10,000 rounds of ammo.
Real answer: The Lake Julian power plant, which provides electricity to much of the Asheville region, did indeed switch over to natural gas from coal last year.
“Natural gas is delivered to the new Asheville Combined Cycle Station by Dominion Energy via the Transco pipeline,” Duke spokeswoman Heather Danenhower said. “During construction of the new station, Dominion Energy upgraded its pipeline infrastructure and compression system from Kings Mountain to Arden, and built an on-site metering and regulating station.”
More Answer Man: Lake Julian coal plant demolition ongoing? Trash pickup at condos?
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Unlike the mountains of coal you used to see at Lake Julian, natural gas is continuously flowing through the pipeline.
“Natural gas is not stored on-site, but the Asheville station can store adequate ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel to support modified operation of the station for multiple days, if needed, while the primary fuel source is restored,” Danenhower said. “We maintain a diverse energy mix among our generating plants that help insulate the company from a disruption from a single fuel source.”
The Associated Press reported last week about a state Senate hearing regarding the Colonial and Transco pipelines, the upshot being the state is very susceptible to an outage.
The article noted that natural gas “increasingly fuels electric generation.” The AP reported that Ed Finley, former chairman of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, told the Senate that a lack of diverse distribution and redundancy in distribution networks make widespread outages for electricity and natural gas hard to overcome quickly.
Finley said the state and utilities should consider hardening the electrical grid against cyber attacks or physical damage, as the loss of electricity and natural gas “would be crippling to the state’s economy.”
The AP noted that Duke “uses natural gas to generate 30% of its electricity during the coldest weather,” and the utility keeps backup fuels at most of these plants, according to Nelson Peeler, a company senior vice president.
“But the diesel fuel immediately available only would last a couple of days, he said,” AP reported.
Efforts to diversity the gas supply have stalled in recent years. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled last summer, “after legal challenges, construction delays and ballooning costs,” AP reported.
Sen. Paul Newton, a Cabarrus County Republican, retired Duke Energy executive and committee member, was blunt in his assessment of our pipeline vulnerabilities.
“The message from today’s hearing couldn’t be clearer: North Carolina’s reliance on a single pipeline is a critical vulnerability,” Newton said in a news release after the meeting, the AP reported.
Question: I recently flew out of Asheville Regional Airport for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began and was struck at how shabby it looked. The grass wasn’t mowed, and there was litter. Is this due to a lack of revenue, or the same labor shortage that everyone else is facing? And what is the status of the terminal building renovation project? The airport needs it badly.
My answer: Whenever our grass gets real shabby looking at home, I tell my wife, “Honey, there is a labor shortage out there right now, you know.” Then she kicks me in the rear end. Hard. You don’t want to trifle with that woman.
Real answer: “The airport employs a management company to operate our parking facilities and to maintain much of the landscaping,” airport spokeswoman Tina Kinsey said via email. “Like many businesses, the pandemic did negatively impact their staffing; however, the airport is working with our partner to improve the maintenance of the facilities as quickly as possible.”
Regarding the terminal project, Kinsey said the design phase “is well underway.
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Classic Answer Man:A packed airport? Slime mold? Armed guards?
“All design and planning documents should be completed by early 2022, and the airport is hoping to begin the building renovation and expansion later that year,” Kinsey said. “More detailed information will be shared once a specific construction timeline is finalized.”
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or email@example.com