Progress to Shut Down Coal Plant Ahead of Schedule

Progress Energy Carolinas will shut down its 170-MW W.H. Weatherspoon coal-fired power plant this fall, several years ahead of the originally announced retirement schedule. The decision follows an evaluation of system resource needs.
The company had previously announced it would retire the plant by 2017 as “part of a fleet-modernization effort” that will result in the retirement of 30% of Progress Energy’s North Carolina-based coal-fired fleet. It now plans to retire the plant near Lumberton, N.C., after it operates during the summer’s period of high electricity demand.

The three-unit W.H. Weatherspoon Plant has been operational since 1949. The decision to “advance the retirement date was made after an evaluation of system resource needs, investments needed to comply with upcoming state and federal environmental regulations and the economics of continued operation,” Progress Energy said in a release. Part of the decision includes the fact that a new gas-fired combined-cycle power plant at the company’s Richmond County Energy Complex will add 600 MW to the utility’s system when it comes online in June.

Progress Energy also said that retirements of the utility’s other, smaller and older coal-fired units in North Carolina are on track. The coal units at the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro are scheduled to be replaced by a natural gas plant in 2013; the Cape Fear Plant near Moncure will be retired by the end of 2014; and coal units at the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington will be replaced by a natural gas plant in 2014.

(For more on coal plant retirements see the February issue of POWER for “Reaching Retirement” as well as the special section on the future of coal-fired generation in the forthcoming May issue.)

In related news, as part of its annual N.C. Clean Smokestacks Act update filed with the N.C. Utilities Commission, Progress Energy last week reported that it has cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 68% and sulfur dioxide by 71% from 2002 levels at the company’s coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. In 2010, the company successfully met the state’s first reduction target for nitrogen oxides. The utility also said it has nearly completed all emissions-control technology projects related to complying with the Clean Smokestacks Act, installations expected to have cost a total of $1.05 billion.

Sources: POWERnews, Progress Energy, POWER

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