NC utility officials green light contentious Duke Energy plant expansion
- The North Carolina Utilities Commission approved Duke Energy to build a 402-megawatt natural gas-fired plant addition to one of its existing combustion turbine stations in Lincoln County, NC, according to The Charlotte Observer.
- The commission gave its approval despite testimony from an independent consumer agency and environmental groups that demand for electricity could dip by the plant's scheduled opening in 2024, a possible shift driven by anticipated changes in technology costs, increased use of solar energy and better battery technology. The commission is supposed to approve new plant construction on an as-needed basis and ultimately denied a 2016 request by Duke to build one of three new proposed natural gas-fired plants in Asheville, NC, early last year.
- Siemens Energy will begin construction on the new facility later this year and should begin operations in 2020. Duke will test the plant for four years, during which time it will receive free electricity under Siemens operation, and then assume control of the facility in 2024.
Duke projects have been generating controversy in North Carolina for years. In 2014, renewable energy advocacy group NC WARN asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to prevent Duke from building any more power plants, noting that power companies in the Carolinas had enough excess energy Duke could purchase if necessary.
At the time, Duke argued that it needed to build solar and gas-fired plants to replace some of its coal-fired facilities. NC WARN turned to FERC after the state utilities commission turned down similar requests.
The Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover, NY, was also subject to protests over what construction would mean for air quality around the plant and the aesthetics of transmission lines running from Dover to Pleasant Valley, NY. In recent months, however, the conversation has turned to the involvement of hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," to provide the natural gas used by the facility. Bechtel Infrastructure and Power Corp. in November stressed that there are no fracking operations being conducted on the site and that the plant is simply tapping into a pipeline, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal.
Bechtel started construction on the $1.6 billion plant in March 2017, and the peak of work is expected to generate approximately 1,100 construction jobs.
- The Charlotte Observer Work to start on controversial addition to Duke Energy power plant in 2018
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