Duke Energy Progress approved to convert Asheville coal plant

Duke Energy Progress won approval from the North Carolina Utilities Commission to transition to a cleaner energy future at the Asheville Plant. The project is estimated to cost about $1 billion.

Under the agreement, the company plans to construct two 280 MW combined cycle natural gas-fired electric generating units to replace its existing 376 MW coal plant, which will be retired by 2020.

The company is working with the Asheville, Buncombe County and surrounding communities to explore solutions that will reduce energy use in the fast-growing, nine-county Duke Energy Progress-West region, which serves more than 350,000 people.

The company will closely track collective progress toward reducing daily and peak power demand and will file annual updates on the progress of the community’s efforts to reduce peak load growth.

If these efforts are successful, Duke Energy Progress will delay or cancel plans to file a future Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application for the commercial operation of the Asheville 186 MW simple-cycle power plant.

Duke Energy will file a future CPCN application to seek approval for a minimum of 15 MW of new solar generation over the next seven years after the Asheville coal units have been decommissioned and coal ash excavation is completed.

The company also plans to seek approval to install a minimum of 5 MW of utility-scale electricity storage over the next seven years. Company officials will continue to evaluate other investments in renewables and other technologies to cost-effectively meet the needs of its customers.

Construction of the natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants is scheduled to begin in 2016 and be in service by late 2019. The new plant will have significantly lower environmental impacts than the existing coal plant.

·      Sulfur dioxide will be reduced by an estimated 99 percent.

·      Nitrogen oxide will be reduced by an estimated 45 percent.

·      Mercury emissions will be reduced to negligible levels

·      Water discharges will be reduced by an estimated 50 percent.

·      Carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by about 60 percent, on a per MW-hour basis, due to the efficiency of the new gas units and the fact that natural gas burns more cleanly than coal.

(The percentages above are estimates and include both phases of the modernization project. Final percentages will be determined after the company receives environmental permits.)

In addition to the environmental benefits, the combined cycle gas units’ efficiency ratings are about 35 percent less expensive to operate than the existing coal units. These savings will be annually passed on to customers dollar-for-dollar via the company’s annual fuel clause adjustment.

Upgrades to existing transmission equipment on the Asheville Plant site are also planned as part of this project.

Since 1970, peak power demand has more than tripled in Duke Energy Progress’ Western Region. Ensuring power reliability was particularly difficult during the winters of 2014 and 2015, when peak demand was 30 percent higher than in 2013. Over the next decade, continued population and business growth is expected to increase overall power demand by more than 17 percent.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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