Crash! Duke Energy implodes original Buck Steam Plant structure

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 3, 2018

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Salisbury Post

SALISBURY — With five minutes to go, the firetruck gave three long blasts Thursday morning to notify everyone in the area.

At one minute, two long blasts.

Within moments, the countdown began: 10, nine, eight …

Three loud booms, the kind you feel in the pit of your stomach, some flashes of light, then — crash. A mammoth building was reduced to a pile of rubble.

Just like that, Buck Steam Station was gone — the old part, anyway. Units 1 and 2 were housed in the original structure, built in 1926.

Seven years ago, Duke Energy Corp. built a Combined Cycle Plant on the same property. The new plant uses natural gas and, for now at least, is considered more environmentally friendly.

It’s also more efficient. It produces roughly twice the electricity as the old Buck plant, with a fraction of the staff. In its heyday, Buck employed a couple of hundred men. The Combined Cycle Plant employs a total of 40.

The implosion had been in the works for several months, and the plant is one of several in the Duke empire to be demolished. So far, the utility has demolished 10 plants and has several more on the list.

Ronnie Goodman has the enviable title of demolition manager. He’s a mechanical engineer who managed a demolition four years ago in Indiana and must have done a super job: Today, that’s all he does. He reports that all the rubble from the blast will be crushed and recycled as infill.

Numerous safety measures were taken before, during and after the blast. Windows were removed. Demolition crews were required to stay 1,200 feet from the building; spectators, 1,800 feet.

Roll call was taken to ensure no one was wandering near the implosion site. “All clear” was called at critical points.

No one was allowed to leave until a thermal drone had checked the site and made sure there were no hot spots or possible further explosions.

Neighbors received postcards a week or two ago advising them not to be alarmed if they heard or felt blasting on Thursday. Emergency services were advised of the blast in case they receives calls on 911.

County Commissioners Greg Edds and Jim Greene were invited to witness the blast. Edds called it a historic day.

“It’s out with the old today, and in with the new,” Edds said. “A lot of good things are happening in energy production. Today’s event clears the way for cleaner energy production.”

Greene agreed.

“This was an example of 20th-century industrialization going by the wayside,” he said. “This was one of the first coal plants to be constructed. Mr. Duke was in his heyday.”

The remaining structure is much larger than the part demolished Thursday and may have a bigger blast. It will be imploded later in the year, ending the Buck coal-fired era.