The North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) has approved Progress Energy Carolinas’ (PEC) plan to build a 620 MW gas-fueled power plant to replace the coal-fired units at its L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington, NC, PEC said. The $600 million project is scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Raleigh, NC-based PEC said last year it intends to permanently shut down by 2017 all of its North Carolina coal-fired power plants that do not have flue-gas desulfurization controls (scrubbers), including those at the Sutton Plant, the 316 MW Cape Fear Plant and the 172 MW W.H. Weatherspoon Plant. PEC said it would also shut down three coal-fired units at its 397 MW H.F. Lee Plant in 2013 and build 950 MW of gas-fired combined-cycle generation at the site as their replacement.

PEC said it expects to retire the three coal-fired units at the Sutton Plant in 2014 and bring the gas-fueled plant online at the same time. The Sutton coal units were built in 1954, 1955 and 1972. Other generation at the Sutton Plant, including a solar facility, is not affected by the change.

“The Sutton Plant has been an important part of our system for more than half a century, and updating the technology we use here will ensure that it remains important,” said PEC CEO Lloyd Yates. “The switch will provide significantly cleaner air and continued reliable service for our customers, while at the same time serving as a catalyst for economic growth and expansion by increasing natural gas supplies in southeastern North Carolina.”

Switching from coal to natural gas will result in a 40-50% drop in carbon dioxide emissions, a 95% reduction of nitrogen oxides emissions and a virtual elimination of sulfur dioxide and mercury emissions at the Sutton facility, PEC said.

Piedmont Natural Gas will construct approximately 133 miles of transmission pipeline and install 23,000 hp of compression to provide gas delivery service to the new Sutton unit (see Daily GPI, April 16).

PEC has a long-term service agreement with Piedmont for the capacity. Subject to approval by the NCUC, Piedmont will begin construction of the pipeline and compression facilities early next year to have them in service in June 2013.

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