Progress Energy to Shut Down First of Several Coal-Generating Units

Progress Energy Carolinas will officially shut down its 177-MW coal-fired W.H. Weatherspoon Power Plant near Lumberton, N.C., at the end of the month—the first such retirement under the utility’s fleet-modernization program that includes disassembly of nearly 30% of the firm’s coal generating fleet in North Carolina.

The Weatherspoon Plant, named for a retired Carolina Power & Light company executive, has been a “vital part of meeting the needs of Carolinas customers since it began commercial operation in 1949,” the Raleigh, N.C.–based company said in a statement. The plant was the first major construction project in the company’s post-World War II expansion. Two more coal-fired units were added in the 1950s, bringing the plant’s total coal generating capacity to 177 megawatts (MW).

Four peaking units at the site, fueled by natural gas and oil, that had been added in the 1970s will continue to operate as needed to meet customer demand, the company said.

The plans to shut down the coal units are part of a 2009-announced program to shut down 11 coal-burning units at four sites in North Carolina. Other plants slated for retirement include the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro, the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington, and the Cape Fear Plant near Moncure. The retirements, representing about 1,500 MW—or 30%—of Progress Energy’s coal generating fleet in North Carolina, are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

As part of the fleet-modernization plan, the company has invested more than $1 billion in technology to reduce emissions dramatically at the Roxboro and Mayo plants in Person County and the Asheville Plant in Buncombe County. Progress Energy will continue to operate those coal-fired facilities after the others are retired.

The company reportedly also has two projects under way to replace the retiring coal-fueled generating capacity with plants fueled by natural gas. A new 920-MW natural gas-fueled combined-cycle facility is under construction at the Lee Plant site near Goldsboro. That project, including a gas pipeline extension, is expected to begin commercial operation in January 2013.

At the Sutton Plant site near Wilmington, Progress Energy is building a gas-fueled combined cycle plant with a generating capacity of 625 MW. That addition, with a corresponding natural gas pipeline extension into southeastern North Carolina, is expected to be online at the end of 2013.

Some employees working at the Weatherspoon Plant are retiring, and many have transferred to other company facilities, Progress said. Others are expected to stay at the site for 12 to 18 months to work on decommissioning the plant.

Sources: POWERnews, Progress Energy

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