Progress Energy Carolinas to Accelerate Retirement of Coal Plants

Progress Energy Carolinas, which recently became a Duke Energy subsidiary, on Friday said it would accelerate the retirement of its 316-MW Cape Fear coal-fired plant, located near Moncure, N.C., and the 177-MW H.B. Robinson Unit 1 coal-fired plant, located near Hartsville, S.C., due to “pending changes in the environmental regulations and other rising costs for smaller, older technology plants.”

The two units will be retired this October, remaining online through the summer season to meet heightened power demand, the company said. The Cape Fear Plant, Progress Energy’s first coal-fired facility, was scheduled to retire June 2013 as part of the company’s fleet-modernization plan, announced in 2009. Three oil-fired combustion turbines will continue to operate at the site after the coal plant’s retirement.

The Robinson coal plant in South Carolina began operation in 1960 and is located on the same site as the 724-MW Robinson nuclear plant. The decision to take the 52-year-old Robinson coal plant offline took into account costs of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to add state-of-the-art emission controls on the small unit. “And the potential for additional emission regulations in the future would increase operating costs even further,” Progress Energy said.

Other factors leading to the decision to retire the Cape Fear Plant and Robinson Unit 1 in October 2012 include the anticipated early 2013 commercial operation of new natural gas-fired generation at the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro, N.C.; continued low natural-gas prices; and the “success of the newly merged company’s joint-dispatch process that utilizes generation across both Duke Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas to more efficiently meet customer needs,” it said.

“These plants, and especially the men and women who have operated and maintained them, have played a vital role in meeting customer energy needs reliably and affordably for decades,” said Jeff Lyash, executive vice president of Energy Supply for Duke Energy. “As we continue modernizing our generation system, we salute those who have been instrumental in fueling our region’s economic growth so dependably.”

On Oct. 1, 2011, the company retired the coal-fired W.H. Weatherspoon Power Plant near Lumberton, N.C., the first retirement under the fleet-modernization plan. Other plants slated for retirement include the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro, N.C., in September 2012 and the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington, N.C., in late 2013. Including the Robinson and Cape Fear plants, the retirements represent more than 1,600 MW, or approximately one-third of Progress Energy Carolinas’ coal-generating fleet.
Sources: POWERnews, Progress Energy Carolinas

—Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine)

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