Today’s batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:
Question: It’s now been one year since Duke energy switched over to using natural gas as their sole source of fuel at the power plant on Lake Julian. What is the temperature change in the water from when they were burning coal to now using natural gas?
My answer: I wonder if this is related to that fish vendor in Lake Julian Park peddling a seemingly endless supply of tilapia?
Real answer: First, a little background, provided by Duke Energy spokeswoman Heather Danenhower.
“Lake Julian was built in the early 1960s by Carolina Power & Light, a Duke Energy legacy company, for the sole purpose of providing cooling water to support the operation of the coal-fired plant,” Danenhower said via email. “Today – as we first reported in January 2020 – discontinuing warm water releases into Lake Julian has made the lake a more natural, cold water habitat similar to other mountain lakes in the region, where North Carolina native fish, such as bass, catfish, brim and crappie, thrive.”
The change did, as I explored in a previous column, kill off a fair number of non-native tilapia.
Duke Energy shut down the coal-burning operation in January 2020, switching over to a new natural gas burning operation. The Lake Julian plant consumed huge amounts of coal — In 2018, Danenhower noted its units 1 and 2 consumed approximately 4,032 tons of coal per day when operating at full capacity.
In May 2019, Danenhower said, “The Asheville coal-fired units will burn approximately 400,000 tons of coal this year. That’s about 4,000 rail cars.”
Clearly, the elimination of coal-burning has been good for the environment. But not so great for warm water-loving tilapia.
Lake Julian has always been famously warm, pretty much year round. In fact, back in the late 1990s, I remember reporting about a criminal who eluded capture from sheriff’s deputies, in the middle of winter, by jumping in the lake and swimming to the other side.
So the change to natural gas had a drastic effect on water temperature.
To answer the question, Danenhower said, they reviewed temperature data from the water’s surface in the middle of the lake near the power plant in 2010 and 2020.
“In 2010, when the coal-fired units were operating, Lake Julian’s average water temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit,” she said. “In 2020, after the coal-fired units retired, Lake Julian’s average water temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.”
Those are overall annual averages. The lake is a lot cooler right now.
“In January 2021, Lake Julian’s water temperature was about 45 degrees Fahrenheit,” Danenhower said.
Criminals would not make it too far in that!
Question: When will the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners let people come back in for live meetings? And what is the criteria they’re using for determining this?
My answer: You have to love an eager beaver all ready to suck up some COVID-19 in an enclosed room with a lot of people packed together just breathing on each other. I think I’ll opt for virtual meetings until, let’s say, 2045, when this is all wrapped up.
Real answer: Probably not real soon.
“As you know, the Governor’s Executive Order still has restrictions on gatherings,” Buncombe County spokeswoman Lillian Govus said via email. “In addition, the county’s state of emergency is still in effect. Until those are lifted, our Board of Commissioners meetings will remain staff only.”
You can “attend” the meetings. You just can’t holler at your favorite commissioner in person.
“These are streamed live on Facebook and on BCTV, and the public is invited to submit public comment via Zoom so we can have real-time visual public testimony,” Govus said. “Of course, going back to ‘normal’ will likely be a phased approach, with additional protocols around social distancing, masks and capacity. We’ll share those out as soon as they are finalized.”
This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or firstname.lastname@example.org