Duke Energy recently announced that it would retire two of its oldest coal-fired power plants in April 2013, two years ahead of schedule, which is welcome news to many in the state and across the region. Both the Buck Steam Station, located in Rowan County, NC, and the Riverbend Steam Station, located in Gaston County, NC, were originally announced for retirement in 2015. As larger, more efficient plants came online and natural gas prices fell, however, Duke had been using the Buck and Riverbend plants less and less in recent years, contributing to its decision to close the two plants early.
Both plants are among some of the oldest coal plants in the country and collectively have been emitting upwards of 1.6 million tons of CO2 every year. In fact, the Buck plant began operation the same year Queen Elizabeth II was born (1926) and was Duke’s first large-scale power plant. The Riverbend plant began operations in 1929, the same year that the Great Depression started, and has recently been the focus of much ire from Charlotte residents who are very concerned about coal ash contamination from the facility. The coal ash problems will still be of concern as the plants retire since neither EPA nor the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have clear plans of how to address the legacy coal ash lagoons that are left behind as the plant stops operation.
In its news release, Duke cited the success of its joint dispatch program and fleet modernization measures, which uses generation resources across both Duke Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas to meet customer needs, as a contributing factor to the early retirement of these two plants. These retirements are part of Duke Energy’s strategy to update its power plants, which includes retiring as much as 6,800 MW of older coal and large oil-fired units. By the end of 2013, Duke Energy will have retired more than 3,800 MW of coal and oil-fired generation capacity.
To read more about Duke’s announcement, you can check out the following news articles.
Charlotte Observer – Duke Energy to Close Riverbend, Buck Plants in April
Duke Energy News Release – Duke Energy’s Fleet Modernization Allows Two Coal Plants to Retire Early
Gaston Gazette – Duke Energy Coal Plants to Retire Early
The Wall Street Journal – Duke Energy to Close Two Coal Plants Early