Duke Energy’s environmental scientists keep their eyes on plants and creatures, both big and small, to help ensure their place in the world. It’s all part of the company’s commitment to supporting biodiversity and natural resources.
Environmental, Health and Safety team members work to keep ecosystems healthy in Duke Energy’s 176,780 acres of habitat across the Carolinas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. They explore ways to protect and enhance habitat for plants and wildlife at rights of way, power plants, transmission towers, solar plants, and lakes and rivers.
Their guide is the Endangered Species Act, established 50 years ago to define threatened or endangered species. Today, it protects 1,662 U.S. species and 638 foreign (not native to the U.S.) species.
“There are 211 federal listed species living in our service territories, and another 70 rare species under review for listing,” said Scott Fletcher, manager of Duke Energy’s Natural Resources group. “Within our transmission and distribution rights of way alone, there are multiple globally significant populations of federally listed plant species, some of which are the largest groupings in the world.”
To meet habitat enhancement and protection goals, Duke Energy works with private and government groups such as the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Organizations along the Catawba-Wateree and Keowee-Toxaway river basins can apply for funding to complete habitat enhancements.
Let’s take a look at some of the work Duke Energy does to protect endangered species.
Rare sunflowers and other plants
Loss of habitat isn’t restricted to the animal kingdom. It's the most common reason for a plant – such as Schweinitz’s sunflower – to become endangered, threatened or even at risk of becoming a candidate to be listed. Prime locations for habitat restoration are Duke Energy’s transmission and distribution rights of way, the tens of thousands of undeveloped forestland acres the company manages, and rivers and lakes. That’s why the company has adjusted vegetation management techniques and looks for ways to protect these species. Learn more about preserving, enhancing and protecting plants.
Birds, bees and other pollinators
Yellow bumble bee
Flitting from flower to flower, pollinators (like birds, bees, butterflies, beetles and even small mammals) help transfer pollen between flowers of the same species, leading to the fertilization needed for seed and fruit production. Many of these species, like the monarch butterfly, are vulnerable to extinction due, in part, to a loss of nesting and feeding habitat. To help combat this loss, Duke Energy maintains and has increased pollinator habitats in rights of way, at generating sites and through grants. The company also participates in conservation studies to help expand work in this field. Learn more about protecting pollinators.
Monitoring program keeps tabs on bats
The evening bat is endangered in Indiana. More than 15 bat species are on the federal endangered list
Bees and butterflies aren’t the only pollinators. Various bat species also fill this role for many flowering plants. They can also be credited as an “all-natural” pest control, on average eating up to half their body weight in insects each night. This helps control many agricultural pests that can reduce the availability of our food. Unfortunately, many species of bat are endangered largely due to white-nose syndrome. Duke Energy participates in the North American Bat Monitoring Program to help track the decline and find a way to reverse it. Learn more about protecting bats.
Duke Energy is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for the multiple bat species now listed as endangered.
Manatees, sea turtles and aquatic life
Many saltwater and freshwater dwellers are also in need of protection. Manatees find a home near Duke Energy’s Crystal River Energy Complex, sea turtles explore the canals at Brunswick Nuclear Plant, and spider lilies bloom on the Catawba River. Through the development of best management practices, regular field assessments to document the populations in local rivers and lakes, and even programs to reduce artificial light visible from beaches, teams at Duke Energy are working to ensure the survival of aquatic species.
Operating licenses, permits and other regulations include measures to monitor, protect and enhance aquatic habitat to help endangered species. One example is aerating runners at hydroelectric plants, which raise downstream oxygen levels. These facilities also have flow-release requirements to help provide enough water downstream to maintain a healthy aquatic environment. The company has also invested in passageways to allow migratory fish like American shad and eels, to move throughout the reservoirs. Learn about other aquatic protection activities at Duke Energy.
Spider lilies at Landsford Canal in South Carolina.