Two Cape Fear coal units, and one at H.B. Robinson, shutting Oct. 1

Progress Energy Carolinas on Oct. 1 will officially retire the coal-fired Cape Fear power plant and H.B. Robinson Unit 1, following through on a plan first announced in July.

The Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) subsidiary said in a Sept. 28 announcement that it will close Cape Fear, located near Moncure, N.C., and H.B. Robinson Unit 1, located near Hartsville, S.C., as part of its fleet-modernization program. The closing of older, less-efficient coal plants and replacing them with state-of-the-art natural gas-fueled plants helps ensure continued grid reliability, reduces air emissions and water usage, and offers new economic development opportunities, the company noted.

“For decades, these two power plants have helped us provide the region with safe, reliable and affordable electricity,” said Jeff Lyash, Duke Energy’s executive vice president of energy supply. “This legacy reflects the exceptional dedication of hundreds of current and former employees.”

The 316-MW Cape Fear plant, located in Chatham County on the Cape Fear River, has met the needs of utility customers since 1923. A total of six coal-fired units were located at the site, the last two completed in 1956 and 1958. Two of Cape Fear’s six coal-fired units were retired in 1977 and two in 2011. The last two units will close Oct. 1. Along with the coal units, one of four oil-fueled combustion-turbine (CT) units on the site is also being retired Oct. 1. The remaining three CT units will remain open, though their operation will generally be limited to periods of high electricity demand, the utility said.

The 177-MW H.B. Robinson Unit 1 in Darlington County is Progress Energy Carolinas’ only coal-fired facility in South Carolina. It has been a key part of meeting the needs of the utility’s customers since it began commercial operation in 1960. This coal unit retirement does not affect the 724-MW Robinson nuclear plant on the same site, which is licensed for operation through July 2030. Nor does it affect Progress Energy Carolinas’ other major power plant in South Carolina—the 790-MW Darlington County facility – which is located in the same county as the Robinson plant and includes 13 combustion-turbine units fueled by natural gas and oil.

In addition to Cape Fear and Robinson Unit 1, Progress Energy Carolinas retired its coal-fired W.H. Weatherspoon plant near Lumberton, N.C., in 2011, and the H.F. Lee power plant near Goldsboro, N.C., in September. It will close another coal-fired power plant, L.V. Sutton near Wilmington, N.C., in late 2013. Once the retirements are complete, the utility will have retired all of its coal-fired power plants that do not have advanced environmental controls. This represents more than 1,600 MW, or about one-third of its coal fleet.

The utility’s fleet-modernization strategy also includes building new natural gas-fueled combined-cycle units. A 920-MW gas-fueled combined-cycle power plant is under construction at the H.F. Lee plant site near Goldsboro, N.C. That project, including a gas pipeline extension, is expected to begin commercial operation in January 2013. The company is also building a 625-MW gas-fired power plant at the Sutton site. Commercial operation, including a gas pipeline extension, is expected by the end of 2013. The utility also added 614 MW of gas generation at its Sherwood H. Smith Jr. Energy Complex near Hamlet, N.C., in 2011.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.