Table of Contents April 2014

APRIL 2014

Cover story

Heart of coal

Ashes of what made Duke Energy so powerful smudge more than the biggest U.S. electric company's reputation.

By Edward Martin

Spring peepers and songbirds should be chirping, but there’s only silence this bitterly cold morning on the empty hillside 10 miles south of the Virginia line, where a northeast breeze hints of snow as it ripples the broom straw. From here, the rough terrain slopes down to the Dan River, and across it, a mile distant, mist mutes the decommissioned power plant’s redbrick bulk. It succumbed two years ago this month, at the age of 64, to cleaner and more efficient technology. Water vapor wafts from a nearby combined-cycle electricity plant, where heat from burning natural gas is used and reused, capturing what was once lost up smokestacks.

The four giant stacks of Duke Energy Corp.’s Dan River Steam Station exhale nothing, idled like the steep conveyors that carried coal to its burners. The ash that was left behind went into a storage basin beside the river, where this morning as many as 200 workers in hard hats, waders and rubber gloves labor. Across a plain of dark-gray ooze, yellow excavators teeter on the edges of gullies deep enough to swallow them. Until recently, this was a 27-acre lagoon, a pond the size of two-dozen football fields. Now, there’s only drying ash the texture of loose soil. Until a pipe under the basin ruptured and the Dan River ran gray in early February, few North Carolinians thought that much about coal, though it generates about four of every 10 kilowatts of electricity used at their workplaces and homes. As a threat to their health, few feared it the way they did its electricity-generating cousin, nuclear power. 


Skins game

Harold Varner III replaces favors with sponsors as he becomes one of the rarest things in golf - a black pro.

By Spencer Campbell

Teenage golfers with skill, ambition and wherewithal play American Junior Golf Association tournaments. The Braselton, Ga.-based nonprofit holds multiday events on elite courses from Maine to California that attract college coaches and sponsors such as Polo and Rolex. The usual entry fee is $280, but that doesn’t include qualifying fees ($95 to $120) and expenses (many teens travel the circuit like PGA Tour pros). Harold Varner III’s folks couldn’t afford that, so he competed in Carolinas Golf Association tournaments, where entry fees are no more than $120. It was at one of those that Press McPhaul first noticed him. Varner was 14 or 15, not much taller than his golf bag and, East Carolina University’s men’s golf coach swears, wearing tennis shoes. His loopy swing produced a powerful and occasionally wayward hook. “But he was having more fun than anyone else.”

Business with pleasure

Gov. Pat McCrory wants top golf courses to help him recruit commerce. Here's a list of the best in the state.

By Spencer Campbell

Closing at the Opens

Companies from across the country are pining for the chance to bolster business at Pinehurst No. 2.

By Lee Pace
While the best golfers in the world battle each other and a revamped course at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in June, a different game will be played on site — albeit in air conditioning. Fluor Corp., an Irving, Texas-based construction and engineering company, will fly in a ringer. Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Co., a 113-year-old manufacturer of cast-iron and plastic pipe and fittings, will employ a little misdirection. And San Francisco-based Wells Fargo & Co. will replace Wachovia Corp. in the lineup. They’re all hoping to gain an advantage from the field of play.

Photo Feature

A shell of a place

Its cultivation may be moving south, but where Powells have peddled peanuts for decades, the legume still rules.

Photography by Bryan Regan



Up Front

We're still a stroke back.


How a composer scores for NPR.

Another investor decides to scale the Cliffs.

Best places to buy homes.

Free & Clear

Not enough ventured to gain.

Capital Goods

Second opinion on Medicaid.


Why employers are using temps to hold off hiring.


Eastern   Triangle   Triad   Charlotte   Western

Special Advertising Sections and Publications

Biotechnology Round Table: Alternate formula

Special Advertising Section: Focus on Forsyth County

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