Duke Energy’s Buck and Riverbend steam stations, coal-fired power plants in the Charlotte, NC, area, will retire two years earlier than scheduled, drawing to a close more than eight decades of operations at each facility.
Both stations had been slated for retirement in April 2015 in advance of upcoming federal environmental regulations; however, the company elected to retire Buck Units 5 and 6 and Riverbend Units 4 through 7 in April.
The units have been operating infrequently in recent years and in the future would have operated even less with the recent completion of new, more efficient plants and low natural gas prices.
The success of the merged company’s joint dispatch process that utilizes generation across both Duke Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas fleets to more efficiently meet customer needs also contributed to these early retirements.
Duke Energy’s joint dispatch process enables the company to more efficiently deploy its generation fleet and move toward meeting the company’s $687 million merger-related savings commitment.
“The investments we and our customers have made in the last 10 years allow us to retire older stations like these and continue transitioning to cleaner sources of electricity,” says Keith Trent, executive vice president and chief operating officer -Regulated Utilities. “These stations played pivotal roles in the 1920s and 1930s in helping to electrify the industries and homes of the Carolinas, and we honor all those employees who contributed their time and talents over the years to ensure safe, reliable operations.”
Buck Steam Station in Rowan County entered commercial operation in 1926 and was Duke Power’s first large-scale power plant.
Its original two units retired in 1979, and units 3 and 4 retired in May 2011. Units 5 and 6, 128MW each, began operating in 1953. Three smaller natural gas combustion turbines at the site retired in October 2012.
The natural gas Buck Combined Cycle Station, 620 MW, began commercial operation in November 2011.
Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County began operating in 1929, and units 1 and 2 retired in 1979. Unit 3 retired in 1976. Units 4 and 5, 94MW each, began operating in 1952, and units 6 and 7, 133MW each, began operating in 1954. Four smaller natural gas combustion turbines at the site retired in October 2012.
A total of 65 employees work at these plants. Duke Energy will work to assist them in finding opportunities within the company that match their skills and interests, and will provide a severance for other affected employees.
These retirements are part of Duke Energy’s strategy to modernize its power plants, which includes retiring as much as 6,800MW of older coal and large oil-fired units. By the end of 2013, Duke Energy will have retired more than 3,800MW of this capacity.
In addition to building new plants, the company has invested $7.5 billion for upgrades at other locations to enhance air quality controls since 1999. These investments have reduced the regulated fleet’s emissions of sulfur dioxide by 74% and nitrogen oxides by 57 percent since 2005.