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Green in brief: Duke Energy completes Hot Springs microgrid


The Madison County town of Hot Springs has long relied on a single 10-mile power line for connection to the Duke Energy electrical grid. But as of Feb. 2, its more than 500 residents have a formidable backup plan: a solar-powered “microgrid” that Duke officials say is one of the most advanced in the U.S.

The microgrid includes 2 megawatts of solar panel capacity and 4.4 megawatt-hours of battery storage. Those resources are enough to power the entire town for an extended period if its connection to the main grid is disrupted.

“The Hot Springs inverter-only-based community microgrid is a great step forward for Duke Energy and our customers. This project has reduced the need for equipment upgrades in an environmentally sensitive area,” said Jason Handley, who manages Duke’s Distributed Energy Group. “At a larger scale, microgrids bring more resiliency to the energy grid for our customers.”

Handley noted that the Hot Springs project will inform other projects throughout the utility’s service area. During a 2022 community meeting, as reported by the Citizen Times, Handley said six further community microgrid developments — four in Florida and two in Indiana — were in Duke’s pipeline.

MountainTrue shares legislative goals for 2023

Asheville-based environmental nonprofit MountainTrue has set its priorities for conservation funding and policy at the N.C. General Assembly in 2023. First among them is improving water quality in the French Broad River by fighting bacterial pollution.

The nonprofit notes that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality added 19 miles of the French Broad to its list of “impaired waterways” last year due to high levels of E. coli and other bacteria. In response, MountainTrue wants state lawmakers to allocate $2 million for projects that would help WNC farmers keep pollution from livestock out of waterways, as well as $500,000 for property owners to reduce stormwater runoff.

Other specific funding requests include $450,000 for the town of Canton to expand the Chestnut Mountain Nature Park, $150,000 to provide additional access to the Green River in Polk County and $150,000 to expand the Blue Ridge Snorkel Trail throughout WNC. MountainTrue also seeks general policy support for affordable housing, dam removal and stormwater mitigation.

In a press release announcing the legislative agenda, Gray Jernigan, MountainTrue’s deputy director and general counsel, said changes in Raleigh would likely make the nonprofit’s work more difficult than before. He noted that former Sen. Chuck Edwards, a Hendersonville Republican who chaired the Senate’s committee for environmental appropriations, has moved on to the U.S. House; he also cited the loss of former Boone Republican Sen. Deanna Ballard to Republican Sen. Ralph Hise.

“The good news is that Hise remains a chairman of the powerful Senate appropriations committee,” Jernigan continued. “The WNC delegation also picked up some muscle in the House, where [Republican] Rep. Karl Gillespie, who represents Cherokee, Clay, Graham, and Macon counties, was appointed co-chair of a House natural resources budget committee.”

MountainTrue’s full legislative agenda is available at avl.mx/cdj.

Opportunity knocks

  • The city of Hendersonville’s Environmental Sustainability Board seeks nominees for the city’s inaugural Sustainability Hero Award. The award will “honor an individual city employee or team that is a champion for change and is responsible for development and implementation of sustainability practices in Hendersonville and the surrounding community.” More information is available by emailing Kelly Pahle at  KPahleESB@Gmail.com; nominations are due by Wednesday, March 1.
  • WNC Communities is accepting nominations for the 2023 WNC Agricultural Hall of Fame. Established in 1991, the Hall of Fame’s objectives are to honor significant contributions to agriculture, recognize individuals who have been responsible for agricultural advancement and promote regional agribusiness. Nominations must be submitted by Monday, March 13; more information and a nomination form are available at avl.mx/cdh.
  • The Black Mountain Beautification Committee is accepting applications for its 2023 Seed Money Awards. Applicants can receive up to $2,500 for gardening projects within Black Mountain that honor “the natural beauty of the surrounding mountains while seeking to reflect that beauty on the streets and in the lives of the citizens.” Applications are due by Monday, March 13, with more information available at avl.mx/b5l.

Get involved

  • The Asheville-Buncombe County Food Policy Council is looking for volunteers to further its mission of building a more robust local food system. Opportunities include neighborhood emergency food preparedness, food security reparations and food waste reduction. More information is available by emailing Gina Smith at Coordinator@ABFoodPolicy.org.
  • Garden Jubilee