Energy takes new forms in Rowan

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 8, 2018

By Randy Welch

Special to the Salisbury Post

The energy industry is in the midst of a dramatic transformation. Duke Energy is making some significant changes in Rowan County, and I’d like to share more about what’s on the horizon. We are continuing our transition toward a cleaner energy future to ensure we continue to power our community.

First, a look back. Right here in Rowan County, Buck Steam Station, built in 1926 and named after co-founder of Duke Energy, James Buchanan “Buck” Duke, was once a six-unit coal-fired power plant. It was the first large capacity coal plant built in the Carolinas to meet the growing energy needs of the region. The inexpensive electricity helped attract new industry, jobs and economic growth to our region.

After more than eight decades of service, the coal plant retired a few years ago, replaced in 2011 by the Buck Combined Cycle Plant, a highly efficient natural gas facility that powers our communities while significantly reducing air emissions.

The retired coal plant is being demolished, and we expect the work to be completed in 2019. Once the site is graded, a grassy field will take its place.

Coal ash recycling

The Buck site will also be active with new construction soon. We’re closing coal ash basins at the site by safely recycling the material, turning it into a valuable product. Coal ash can be used in concrete and cement products to improve performance and enhance the durability of structures like roads and bridges.

But extra carbon left in the ash must be removed first. We’re building an ash reprocessing unit at Buck to make the material suitable for the concrete industry. Short-term benefits include 100 to 200 jobs during construction and 12 full-time employees once the unit is completed. Long-term, customers get the benefit of proceeds from ash sales.

New renewable energy

A cleaner energy future also includes renewable generation like solar power. North Carolina ranks second in the nation behind California in solar capacity, and Rowan County and Duke Energy continue to be part of that story.

The community of Woodleaf will be home to the first solar project in North Carolina that has a tracking system to follow the sun and maximize efficiency and output. Constructed on our transmission switchyard property, the Woodleaf Solar Facility will employ 50 people during construction. And like with the ash recycling project, this project will contribute to our local economy.

The facility should be in service at the end of this year and will join our other solar projects in Rowan County at Food Lion and Freightliner that help meet our energy needs here in our community.

We thank you for your business and are proud to serve Rowan County and this region. We are looking forward to a bright energy future together. Thank you for letting us power your lives.

Randy Welch works in government and community relations for Duke Energy.