State OKs Duke Energy expansion

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Staff report
The N.C. Utilities Commission approved Thursday Duke Energy Carolinas’
request for a new combined cycle, natural gas-fired generating unit at
Buck Steam Station. Regulators also OK’d the company’s request to add a
620-megawatt combined cycle, natural gas-fired unit at Dan River Steam
Station in Rockingham County. “Customers trust that Duke Energy will
meet their needs ó supplying the power they rely on in a way that is
both affordable and clean,” Ellen Ruff, president of Duke Energy
Carolinas, said in a news release. “These projects are part of our
long-term plan to continue delivering on the promises we’ve made to
customers while modernizing our fleet.”
Duke Energy adds roughly 50,000 new customers a year, and the company
says the Buck Steam Station project will help meet intermediate demand
that is above the base load needed on a seasonal or daily basis.
The company will be ready to begin construction at the Buck facility
once it receives the necessary air permit from North Carolina.
Construction at Dan River would follow.
The new Buck unit could be operating as early as the summer of 2010.
The plan includes retiring two older, less efficient coal units at each
Ruff emphasized that the Buck and Dan River projects, while identical,
are in Duke’s expansion plans individually and will move forward on
their own.
“It’s not an either/or,” she said.
Duke officials previously estimated the construction project will
employ about 50 people initially and increase to a peak of almost 500.
Duke says both projects employ state-of-the art environmental control
technology to minimize plant emissions. These controls, combined with
retirement of older coal-fired units, will result in a net reduction of
harmful emissions.
That should encourage the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural
Resources to approve new air permits for each plant, Duke officials
The coal units being retired at Buck generate about 130 megawatts of
electricity. The plant would still operate other coal units, in
addition to single-cycle gas-fired unit.
Both new projects also will use cooling towers to:
– Reduce the impact on the Yadkin and Dan rivers, according to Duke
– Enable Duke to keep generating power even during drought conditions.
Adding natural gas as a fuel fits with the company’s strategy to
maintain a diverse fuel portfolio ó an important tool in managing
customer costs and providing reliable power.
The new gas-fired units are the first combined cycle generating units
on the Duke Energy Carolinas system. They are meant to offer greater
efficiency than traditional combustion turbines and operating
flexibility. A combined cycle unit uses combustion turbine generators,
boilers and a steam turbine generator to produce electricity.
Natural gas burns in the combustion turbines to produce mechanical
power that the generators converted into electrical power. For
efficiency, the hot exhaust gases from the combustion turbines heat the
boilers, creating steam, which spins a steam turbine-generator and
creates additional power.
Duke has generated electricity at the Buck Steam Station since 1926 and
at the Dan River Steam Station since 1949. Salisbury City Council, the
Salisbury-Rowan Economic Development Commission, Rowan County Chamber
of Commerce, Rowan County Board of Commissioners and Granite Quarry
Board of Aldermen were among the local entities that approved a
resolution supporting the request. “We’re honored that government and
business leaders in Rowan and Rockingham counties strongly support
these projects and recognize the positive impact they can have in their
communities,” Ruff said in the press release. Ruff told the Post the
company has a strong interest in economic development for the area.
Duke Energy Carolinas also is pursuing renewable power sources and
power savings through energy efficiency. An advanced, clean coal unit
is under construction at the Cliffside Steam Station on the Cleveland
and Rutherford County line, though environmental groups have sued to
stop that project. Also, the company continues to evaluate the nuclear
option at a site in Cherokee County, S.C.
Duke Energy also bought rights to all power generated by a large solar
power farm planned in Davidson County.
Duke Energy Carolinas’ operations include nuclear, coal-fired, natural
gas and hydroelectric generation. It provides nearly 21,000 megawatts
of electricity to more than 2.3 million customers in a
24,000-square-mile service area of the Carolinas. Duke Energy supplies
and delivers electricity to about 4 million U.S. customers. It has
approximately 35,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity in the
Midwest and the Carolinas, and natural gas distribution services in
Ohio and Kentucky.