Background Conventional Hydro
Steam-electric stations produce more than 95 percent of the electricity used in the Piedmont Carolinas today. But that wasn’t always true.
Duke Energy began its operations in the Carolinas as a hydroelectric company. As time passed, however, it became evident that the Piedmont was growing rapidly, and water power alone could not supply all the electricity needed.
First of all, the area’s relatively small rivers do not contain enough water to generate the large amounts of energy required for an industrial society.
For example, it takes about two tons of water falling through the turbines at each of the thirteen dams on the Catawba River just to produce one kilowatt-hour, or kwh, of electricity. A kilowatt-hour is the amount of electricity needed to burn ten 100-watt light bulbs for one hour.
Although hydroelectric production normally provides a small percentage of the electricity used by Duke Energy’s customers, it’s still an important energy resource. Hydroelectric plants are now used mainly to supply peaking power—the extra electricity needed during the fairly short periods when customers’ use of power is the highest.