RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Oil prices set another record Friday, topping $140 a barrel. Brace yourself for higher prices at the pump. But not all news on the energy front is grim.

On Thursday, advocates for energy produced by other means scored a victory when Duke Energy disclosed plans to buy a wind power firm for $320 million. And earlier this week, SAS disclosed plans to build a five-acre solar farm on its campus in Cary. The power produced will be sold to Progress Energy.

These steps to further embrace “renewables” show that Duke and Progress are deadly serious about finding ways to augment coal, nuclear and natural gas as energy prices continue to skyrocket.

The Duke deal for Catamount could add, over time, more than 2,000 megawatts of power to the grid. And the company says it is pursing projects that could generate more than 7,000 megawatts.

That’s a staggering total based on the estimate that 1 thousand megawatts is enough power for some 800,000 households for a year.

Duke’s entire grid right now generates 28,000 megawatts of power, so wind at some point could provide the equivalent of that grid.

“It’s a start,” a spokesperson for Duke told The Skinny. “Natural gas, coal – which traditionally has been cheap – and even nuclear, all costs are soaring. That makes renewables’ economics more attractive than in the past.

“Now, renewables are mainstream all over the nation. Let’s not forget – the wind source is free, and it’s also environmentally beneficial.”

Duke and Progress also are touting conservation programs and shifts to more efficient sources for refrigeration and lighting. After all, as the Duke spokesperson said, “The best way to produce environmentally friendly energy is to not to produce it all.”

Neither company is going to pull plans for more coal and nuclear plants, at least for now, because our regional economy continues to grow and more energy is needed. And “there’s no magic bullet” solution to meeting demand, the spokesperson added.

However, the power companies are looking. Duke, Progress, et al are targets for a lot of criticism. But they are seeking alternatives, not just pontificating like so many politicians do as we whistle our way past the graveyard of the threat posed by continued reliance on foreign energy.