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NC WARN expresses concerns for Duke University power plant proposal

The report said the combined heat and power plant proposed by Duke Energy would contradict Duke University’s environmental goals.

Randy Wheeless, spokesperson for Duke Energy, said the proposal would help Duke University better serve its electricity and steam needs, while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“As a result, the university will use less natural gas, get steam at a cheaper price and lower their overall carbon footprint for the campus by about 25 percent, so it’s very advantageous for the university,” he said.

Brian Murray, interim director of the Duke University Energy Initiative, an academic unit responsible for energy research, education and outreach, said the plan would also improve the university’s options in the case of an emergency.

“The other proposed benefit of doing this is that the university, by having this combined heat and power plant on campus, can island itself off the grid in case of a natural disaster,” he said.

N.C. WARN did not agree about the plant’s necessity.

“The electricity and steam loads of the University campus and medical center are being met adequately on a day-to-day basis and there are backup systems in place to serve critical loads in case of an emergency grid outage,” the report stated.

Jim Warren, executive director of N.C. WARN, said he was concerned about the plant with regard to climate change.

“We simply don’t have any more time to be wasting on building fossil fuel power plants, especially not for fracked gas,” he said.

The report also mentioned alternatives to the contested plant, urging Duke University to look into solar power in particular.

“They should do a more comprehensive assessment the way UNC-Chapel Hill did a few years ago of their actual solar potential,” Warren said.

The report recommended Duke University involve the community in discussions about the project.

In an interview, Warren appealed to Duke University’s president to make the right decision.

“We’re not attacking President (Richard) Brodhead — we’re calling on him and his good grace to step up and speak out and take assertive action to stop this madness,” Warren said.

Murray said Duke University has not made a final decision on the proposal yet, which is currently being evaluated by the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

“It’s still going to be a process before anything like this could even start,” he said.


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