Duke Announces Plan to Retire Asheville Coal Plant, Replace with CCPP

Duke Energy announced on May 19 that it will construct a new 650-MW natural gas–fired combined cycle power plant (CCPP) and retire its 375-MW Asheville coal power plant by early 2020.

The plan also includes the addition of solar generation at the site as well as construction of a new substation and 40-mile transmission line at a total cost of $1.1 billion for the project.

“With the availability and near record low cost of natural gas, this comprehensive project will transform the energy system in the region to meet the growing needs of our customers and significantly reduce emissions and water use,” Lloyd Yates, Duke Energy executive vice president of market solutions and president of the Carolinas region, said in a press release.

The company expects the new facility to cost about 35% less to operate than the existing coal plant, with the added benefit of lower emissions. Duke said emissions of mercury would be completely eliminated once the new plant is in service; SO2 could be reduced by up to 95%, NOx by about 35%, and CO2 by 60% on a per-MWh basis.

The Asheville region currently imports about 400 MW of power during peak demand periods and demand is expected to grow by about 15% during the next 10 years. The new plant’s larger capacity is expected to eliminate the need to use oil-fired generation during peak periods.

Duke said it would continue to move forward with removal of coal ash at the Asheville site and still intends to permanently close the site’s ash basin. The company’s handling of coal ash has been under scrutiny since the Dan River coal ash spill occurred in February 2014. The company was fined less than three months ago for its handling of coal ash at multiple North Carolina sites.

“We’ve developed an innovative plan that’s a ‘win-win-win’ for consumers, the environment and the economy,” said Yates.

Aaron Larson, associate editor (@AaronL_Power, @POWERmagazine)