Duke Sets Another Coal Plant for Demolition

Duke Energy’s drive to reorient its fleet away from coal took another step on Nov. 4 when it announced demolition plans for its 84-year-old Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County, N.C.

The 454-MW plant was one of Duke’s oldest fossil assets, having come online in 1929. It was retired in April, two years ahead of schedule. The plant had operated only intermittently in recent years because of an inability to compete with more efficient plants.

The demolition will occur in two stages, the first to remove plant equipment, including the precipitators, coal handling equipment, and water tank, through early 2014. The second stage will be the demolition of the plant buildings in early 2016. The transmission lines and associated equipment will remain on site and continue operating, though some of it will need to be relocated between the two phases.

Still undecided is what will happen to the plant’s multiple coal ash ponds. Duke personnel and outside engineers are evaluating several closure options, which must be approved by the state. One option would involve removing the water and capping the remaining ash in place; another would involve moving the ash to a landfill. Potentially both methods may be used in combination. The state is sure to keep a close eye on the remediation process, having already sued Duke for the contamination around its ash ponds, including those at Riverbend.

Though Duke recently inaugurated a major new coal unit at its Cliffside Steam Station in December, the bulk of its development has been focused on gas. Three new combined cycle plants in North Carolina came online this year. Meanwhile, seven of its 14 coal plants in the state have been closed. “This process is a tangible next step in Duke Energy’s longstanding effort to generate energy in cleaner ways and better serve our customers,” Tim Gause, Duke Energy district manager said in a statement.

Duke plans to retire nearly 7 GW of coal- and oil-fired capacity as part of its modernization drive. About 4 GW of that has already been shut down.

Thomas W. Overton, JD, gas technology editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)

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