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Duke Energy seeks incentives from Rowan for a new plant

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Duke Energy will seek incentives from Rowan County for its proposed 620-megawatt, combined cycle, natural gas-fired plant at the Buck Steam Station.
While Duke Energy has kept the exact cost of its Buck Steam plans secret for competitive reasons, the Rowan County investment would be at least $350 million, Salisbury District Manager Randy Welch said.
Welch made a formal request for the incentives or “investment grant” to the Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission Wednesday.
The large amount of the investment would raise the project to a “Level 3” grant category, meaning Duke Energy could receive a five-year grant award equal to 85 percent of the additional property taxes it would be paying.
Duke Energy and Rowan County would enter a contract. The company would pay its taxes in full to Rowan County each year, then a portion of the additional property tax (in this case, 85 percent) would be returned as a grant.
The EDC board directed Executive Director Robert Van Geons to do an economic impact analysis of the project, set up a pre-application meeting with the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and establish a public hearing date on the request.
Welch said the county’s investment grant could play a a factor in whether or not Duke Energy’s application for the new Buck Steam Station plant is approved by the N.C. Utilities Commission.
Duke Energy has applications for virtually identical plants at both its Buck and Dan River (Rockingham County) stations.
The Utilities Commission could approve applications for both sites, only one out of the two, deny both or award projects to intervenors that include LS Power and the Electric Power Supply Association.
Welch said Duke Energy looks for a Utilities Commission decision by July. If the applications for Rowan and Rockingham counties were both approved, the company would try to build both, he said.
If the Buck Steam Station plant were approved, limited sitework would begin late this year, and construction would start in earnest in early 2009.
An initial construction workforce of 50 people would grow to 400 or 500 at the project’s peak. The site would become “a small city unto itself” for awhile, Welch said.
The plant would first operate under a single-cycle mode by May 2010 and go to combined cycle in 2011.
The plant would employ 20 to 25 people.
The EDC, Rowan County Board of Commissioners and Salisbury City Council previously have passed resolutions in support of Duke Energy’s application with the Utilities Commission.
Buck Steam Station has operated along the Yadkin River since 1926. It currently has four operating coal-fired generating units, two of which will be retired in coming years as Duke Energy looks to continue to reduce harmful emissions.
Buck also has three simple-cycle natural gas-fired combustion turbine units dating back to the 1970s.
In other EDC business Wednesday, Van Geons said the proposed 2008-2009 budget adds $18,000 for marketing that will be directed to municipal funding partners.
Van Geons said he wanted the municipalities to know the EDC was not lessening efforts for them and concentrating only on marketing the county-owned Summit Corporate Center.
The proposed budget allocates $40,000 toward the industrial park’s marketing.
The EDC board approved a budget amendment Wednesday decreasing a salary expense line item by $2,625 and adding it to the cost of the executive director search that led to Van Geons’ hiring.
The total cost of the EDC’s search for a new director was $46,320.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka @salisburypost.com

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