Duke Energy to close 2 coal-fired power plants near Charlotte in April

Duke Energy will shutter two aging coal-fired power plants near Charlotte in April, two years ahead of schedule.

The Buck and Riverbend power producers have been in operation for nearly eight decades, though they have been operating with less frequency in recent years.

They were scheduled for mothballing in 2015, ahead of stiffer environmental regulations, but Duke’s modernization with more efficient plants combined with low natural gas prices hastened the move.

In South Carolina, both state-owned utility Santee Cooper and investor-owned South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. announced decisions last year to phase out their older coal units.

Santee Cooper closed units in Conway and Moncks Corner in late December. SCE&G plans to phase out six coal-fired units at three locations, including Canadys in Colleton County, by 2018.

“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,” said Keith Trent, executive vice president and chief operating officer of regulated utilities for Duke Energy. “These stations played pivotal roles in the 1920s and 1930s in helping to electrify the industries and homes of the Carolinas.”

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, 128 megawatts each, began operating in 1953 and will be shut down April 1. Three smaller natural gas combustion turbines at the site were retired in October.

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, 94 megawatts each, began operating in 1952, and units 6 and 7, 133 megawatts each, began operating in 1954. Those four units will be retired April 1. Four smaller natural gas combustion turbines at the site were retired in October.

The closings will affect 65 employees, who will be offered other positions or severance packages, according to a statement from Duke.

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