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Behind the Scenes With Tom Knapke

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There's a lot of talk about "sustainability" these days. At Duke Energy, we define sustainability as doing business in a way that's good for people, the planet, and the well- being of our company. Our Cayuga electric power plant along the Wabash River in Vermillion County translates that philosophy into action.

Every January, and for the past 18 years, we open our gates and invite the community to experience the majestic beauty of the American bald eagle families that call Cayuga home. The eagles know this is a hospitable place to live, especially in the winter, thanks to the power plant that uses river water to cool the steam produced by generating electricity. When that warm water returns to the river, it prevents ice and attracts schools of fish, a favorite food source of the eagles.

I am always amazed by the number of people who return to Eagle Viewing Day year after year. Guests gaze in fascination as they observe such magnificent predators in their natural habitat. In addition to the eagles in the wild, our partner, the American Eagle Foundation, brings other bird species as part of its educational "birds of prey" program. While audience members learn about the creatures and their characteristics, many of these birds fly right over the audience's heads, taking their turns in the spotlight. A bald eagle makes a stately guest appearance for the program's grand finale.

The day's activities also include guided power plant tours. Without fail, people tell us how amazed they are at the complex machinery and processes required to generate and distribute the electricity that powers their homes. Alongside that machinery are the plant's "scrubbers" an investment of more than $398 million in equipment that lowers the coal-fired plant's air emissions, making it a cleaner-operating facility.

Eagle Viewing Day is a major source of pride for both Cayuga employees and retirees. The tireless volunteer efforts of these individuals and their families bring this day to life, year after year. And seeing the amazement in the children's faces as they experience the beauty and power of the bald eagle makes it more than worth the time and energy.

This day is also made possible by community volunteers, such as a local farmer who brings his employee and two tractors free of charge to pull donated wood-benched shuttle wagons, which transport guests to the various eagle viewing stations. And our local school corporation donates the use of several school buses for the day. I can’t think of a better example of a community working together for a positive purpose, generating goodwill and memories that last long after the day ends.

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