By Abby Margulis, for Citizen Times

Making energy with natural gas might get a whole lot more natural if Duke Energy Carolinas starts using hog manure.

The company hopes to use swine waste to fuel its Buck and Dan River Combined Cycle plants near Charlotte and Greensboro in order to register them as renewable energy facilities.

North Carolina requires utilities to make at least 0.07 percent of their power from a biomass resource, which could include hog waste.

But the state’s utilities have struggled to meet this mandate because of a scarcity of this waste available from in-state farms, according to Randy Wheeless, spokesman for Duke Energy.

There are plenty of hog farms in North Carolina, but right now they lack the technology to mass produce waste for power companies, Wheeless said.

Paperwork has been filed with the N.C. Utilities Commission to use sites from outside the state to help supply biogas at these plants.

About 1 percent of total fuel will be consumed by the two plants from these out-of-state farms, Wheeless said.

The company plans to work with High Plains Bioenergy in Guymon, Oklahoma, and Roeslein Alternative Energy of Princeton, Missouri. These hog farms are larger agricultural operations that are more equipped to process large amounts of hog manure, slaughter waste and other such material.

By 2020, Duke Energy needs to start producing 0.2 percent of retail sales in swine waste, and the company hopes that by starting this effort now, they will meet this goal.

“It’s been slow to catch hold in North Carolina and hopefully this project will spur development in the state and we can continue moving forward with sustainable electricity,” Wheeless said.