Duke Energy’s Transmission Line Proposal – There’s A Better Way

August 18, 2015

By Brad Wyche

(Opinion Editorial originally printed by The Greenville News – August 10, 2015 – Permission for reprint granted by publication)


Duke Energy wants to build a new natural gas plant in Asheville, North Carolina and a new substation in Campobello, South Carolina and has proposed 44 possible routes through the Blue Ridge Mountains and Foothills of the Carolinas for a 40-mile long transmission line that would connect the two facilities. Over 200 towers with an average height of 140 feet would support this massive line; some of the towers would be as high as 192 feet.

The “study area” for the transmission line includes large portions of northern Greenville County, northern Spartanburg County, southern Polk County and Henderson County. This area’s economic well-being is inextricably tied to its stunning natural beauty and abundant green spaces, which would be severely damaged by the transmission line wherever it is built. The area also includes some of the most ecologically important lands on the planet.

Upstate Forever is honored to protect several properties in the area with conservation agreements but unfortunately, these agreements cannot legally stop a utility from condemning rights-of-way for transmission lines.

Duke’s proposal has already had a chilling effect on the real estate market in the area. Who would want to buy property near or next to this huge line? No wonder Duke’s proposal has been greeted by a tsunami of public opposition.

No one questions the need for Duke to provide electrical power to its customers, but there is a better way to do it than through this nightmarish proposal. The options include: Reduce the size of the gas plant in Asheville. The proposed gas plant in Asheville is twice the size of the smaller coal plants that are being closed. By reducing the size of the gas plant, Duke can avoid the transmission line entirely.

Expand energy efficiency programs. As former Duke Energy President Jim Rogers himself said: “The most environmentally sound, inexpensive and reliable power plant is the one we don’t have to build because we’ve helped our customers save energy. [Energy efficiency] is the lowest-cost alternative and is emissions-free. It should be our first choice in meeting our growing demand for electricity, as well as in solving the climate challenge.” (Quoted in Thomas Friedman’s column, N. Y. Times, Aug. 22, 2007). Duke has been doing some good work on energy efficiency, but much more can and should be done.

Expand the use of solar energy. As Lester Brown says in his new book, The Great Transition: Shifting from Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy: “From the rooftops of homes, schools, businesses, and government buildings to sports stadiums, parking lots, former landfills, and deserts, a solar energy revolution is unfolding.” So far this year more than half of all new electrical generating capacity in the United States has come from solar, and there is mind-boggling potential for solar in the “Sunny South.” After efficiency, this should be Duke’s first resort for meeting our energy needs.

Right now the single most important thing for concerned citizens to do is submit their comments and objections to Duke at 526 Charlotte St., Charlotte, N.C. 28202, to the South Carolina Public Service Commission at 101 Executive Center Dr., No. 100, Columbia, S.C. 29210, and to the North Carolina Utilities Commission at 4325 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699. Also please visit the Upstate Forever website, www.upstateforever.org, and sign our petition, asking Duke to withdraw its proposal and do this project in a way that avoids environmental and economic harm to the Upstate and Polk and Henderson Counties. And finally, it is important to contact your local, state and federal elected representatives and let them know that you oppose this ill-conceived project.

– Brad Wyche is the Executive Director, a nonprofit organization that promotes sensible growth and protects special places in the Upstate. He can be reached at [email protected].