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.
- 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.
- 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.
Plant and craft vendors are encouraged to apply for Hendersonville’s Garden Jubilee, taking place Saturday-Sunday, May 27-28. The event will feature over 200 vendors, landscaping displays and presentations by gardening experts. More information is available at avl.mx/cdn.
Save the date
- The N.C. Arboretum celebrates the annual Great Backyard Bird Count on Saturday, Feb. 18, 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Events planned for the day include a bird mist netting demonstration, birding walks and a bird craft station for children. More information is available at avl.mx/cdm.
- Asheville’s Parks & Recreation Department has released its guide to winter and spring programs. Upcoming outdoor options include a hike geared toward older residents Tuesday, Feb. 21, and a family disc golf demo Thursday, March 9. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/cb9.
- The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project’s annual CSA Fair takes place at the YWCA of Asheville on Friday, March 10, 3:30-6:30 p.m. The free event connects residents with local farmers offering community supported agriculture subscriptions of produce, meat, flowers and more. More information and an online CSA guide are available at avl.mx/936.
- The nonprofit Organic Growers School hosts a four-part series of gardening classes beginning Saturday, March 11. The course, hosted by Laura Ruby at Reems Creek Nursery in Weaverville and an urban garden in West Asheville, will cover plant selection, site design and approaches to transplanting. More information and registration are available at avl.mx/cba.
- Bullington Gardens, the Hendersonville horticultural learning center, will hold its annual spring plant sale Thursday-Saturday, April 27-29, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Offerings will include native pollinator shrubs, perennial flowering plants, vegetable starts and herbs. More information is available at BullingtonGardens.org.
- The Blue Ridge Electric Vehicle Club was named the Chapter of the Year for the South by the national Electric Vehicle Association. The award, presented Jan. 28 in Carlsbad, Calif., recognizes the club’s “hard work and dedication to educating and advocating for the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.”
- Old Fort-based Kitsbow Cycling Apparel received a Visionary Leadership Award from the N.C. Business Council at a Jan. 26 event in Raleigh. The honor recognizes “executives within businesses that see beyond the short-term, market-driven actions and position their business, or sector, for success over the long term.”
- Harrison Davis, a junior agriculture student at West Henderson High School in Henderson County, won the N.C. FFA Association’s tractor driving championship on Feb. 2.
- Arden resident Nathan Frantz, along with Lexington resident Sean Clayton, set a new speed record for hiking the Palmetto Trail in South Carolina. The two completed the 500-mile route in 10 days, 11 hours, besting the previous record by 17 hours.
- Asheville photographer David Huff took first prize in the “People in Places” category of the 2022 America the Beautiful Photo Contest, hosted by national nonprofit Scenic America. Huff’s winning shot features a sunset at Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park. His photograph and all other contest winners can be seen at avl.mx/cdl.
- The nonprofit Friends of DuPont Forest received $99,000 in grants from tourism leaders in Henderson and Transylvania counties to help develop a master recreation plan for the DuPont State Recreational Forest. As noted by Sara Landry, the nonprofit’s executive director, in a press release announcing the awards, the forest receives about 1.3 million visitors annually, a level far above the capacity for which it was designed upon opening in 1995.