Western Carolinas Modernization

Powering the Western Carolinas

More than 7.4 million customers in the Southeast and Midwest count on us for electricity 24/7, and we're committed to delivering it in a safe, reliable and affordable way. Over the next few years, we're upgrading our system in the Western Carolinas to meet growing power demand, ensure reliability and reduce our environmental footprint.

Read our news release and fact sheet for more information. For questions related to the Western Carolinas Modernization Project, call 800.820.9359 or email us.

Project Overview

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In the past four decades, customers' peak electricity use in Duke Energy Progress’ Western region, which serves 160,000 customers across nine counties, has more than tripled. Over the next decade, this demand is expected to grow by more than 15%.
 
In May, we announced a comprehensive, longer-term solution to cost-effectively serve customers. In November 2015, a revised modernization plan for the region was announced to meet the region’s power demand that is better fit for the community. The proposal balances public input, environmental impacts and our need to provide customers with safe, reliable and affordable electricity.
 
The new plan for meeting the growing energy needs of the Western Carolinas allows time for innovation and additional technologies to be developed that can be used to address future energy needs. The Foothills Transmission Line and substation near Campobello, S.C., projects are no longer needed.



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The 376-megawatt Asheville Plant has served the region well since 1964, and will continue to serve customers until the new natural gas plants come on line. We expect to retire the two coal units by early 2020.
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Latest Images

View all our images related to our modernization projects in Western North Carolina, including coal plant retirement, natural gas plants, energy efficiency, demand-side management, ash basin closure, and solar generation.

Frequently Asked Questions

General overview

  • Following a comprehensive evaluation of the energy system, we've crafted a multifaceted plan to meet the current and growing energy needs of the region.

    The Western Carolinas Modernization Project includes:

    • Retiring the 376-megawatt (MW) Asheville coal units; excavating the ash and closing the basin.
    • Building two 280-megawatt (winter rating) combined-cycle power plants on the Asheville coal plant site to take advantage of historically low gas prices.
    • Working with the local gas distribution company to upgrade an existing intrastate gas pipeline that will serve the region beginning in 2019 and will provide a firm fuel supply to the new combined-cycle natural gas plant.
    • Building new transmission infrastructure and upgrading related area substation infrastructure.
    • Continuing to move ahead on coal ash excavation and ash basin closure at the Asheville power plant site.
    We also plan to seek approval to install a minimum of 5 megawatts of utility-scale electricity storage and a minimum of 15 megawatts of new solar generation over the next seven years after the Asheville Plant’s coal units have been decommissioned and coal ash excavation is completed in the Duke Energy Progress West region. The company will file a future Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) application for additional peaking generation if necessary. And, we will continue to evaluate other investments in renewables and other technologies to cost-effectively meet the needs of customers.

    These investments provide economical and long-term reliability for the region while reducing our environmental footprint.
  • Our unwavering commitment is to serve all of our customers with safe, reliable, affordable power, generated as cleanly and efficiently as possible. And we want to do that in a way that’s respectful of our customers and communities. Public input was imperative in this process and we clearly heard that most everyone wanted us to explore all options/alternatives for meeting the growing energy needs of the region.

    The revised plan strikes that balance of addressing concerns from the public, minimizing environmental impact and meeting our schedule of being able to supply much needed generation to this growing area.
  • The company will be working with major suppliers of key components for the plant to further refine the overall cost estimate, but we expect the costs to essentially be the same as the original plan of approximately $1.1 billion.

    Once the project is complete, we will seek to recover these costs from Duke Energy Progress (DEP) customers through the regulatory process.

  • These projects represent a significant investment in the Western Carolinas region which, in turn, provides significant new regional tax base resulting from construction and ongoing operations of generation, transmission, distribution and natural gas facilities.

    Duke Energy evaluates property tax on an annual basis and files an annual property tax report as part of that review. The company will conduct the property tax assessment for both the soon-to-be retired coal plant and new natural gas plant over the next few years and submit a final filing closer to 2019 - 2020. Based on current Buncombe County tax rates, property taxes from the power plant are estimated to increase between 35 and 40 percent after the power plant site is modernized.

  • We have a unique opportunity to work with PSNC as a contracted customer on an existing intrastate natural gas pipeline that will bring a firm fuel source to the region. The timing of expanding the pipeline infrastructure to support Duke Energy's proposed gas generation in Asheville allows us to achieve project benefits as the timing is in sync with PSNC's project timeline.

    The advanced timing meets future demand, which is expected to grow by more than 15% in the next decade. The project enables us to meet current and future demand and supports industrial growth and future economic development. Since 2010, the Asheville Chamber of Commerce reports approximately 3,000 new jobs and $1 billion in commercial/industrial investments have been realized in the Asheville area. Further evidence of the rapid growth in this region is the 14 hotels that are currently under construction in Asheville.

    Additionally, the proposed projects would allow Duke Energy to avoid investing approximately $200 million in a 124-megawatt oil power plant and new coal ash equipment on the power plant site.

  • Duke Energy is committed to serve the energy needs of our customers. We're equally committed to helping our customers better manage and reduce their overall energy usage, especially during times of peak demand.

    An important aspect of the new plan is to work directly with our customers, communities and other stakeholders to place more emphasis on energy efficiency, demand response, and renewables and technology projects that will help slow peak load growth. Through existing programs and innovative solutions to be developed, we can work together to help delay the need for additional generation.

New generation

  • As identified in the Duke Energy Progress 2014 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the company projects the need for new combined-cycle generating capacity by 2020 as a result of the following:
    • Load growth
    • Retirement of aging and less-efficient coal units
    • Expiration of purchase power contracts

    Building a highly efficient natural gas plant is part of the company's plan to meet future demand for reliable, affordable electricity. Natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plants also offer economic and environmental advantages compared to other generation options.

  • The Western Carolinas region continues to experience residential, commercial and industrial growth. The new combined-cycle units will help meet current and future energy demand for homes, schools and businesses in the region. Currently peak demand increases approximately 25 megawatts per year. These generation projects take years to license and build, so it's always prudent to plan for future growth.

  • Duke Energy will contract for firm (uninterruptible) natural gas supply in excess of the needs of the new combined-cycle units. As a result, it is anticipated that total fuel oil consumed will be reduced from current levels at the Asheville facility because some fuel oil currently consumed in the existing simple-cycle units will be offset by firm natural gas. The combined-cycle units will be dual fuel capable to ensure electrical system reliability in the rare event of an interruption in the natural gas supply to the site.
  • The project requires approval from various local, state and federal governing bodies and regulatory agencies, including the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and the North Carolina Utilities Commission.

  • The natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant will be constructed on the existing Asheville Plant site. It will have a footprint of approximately 25 acres.

  • There is an existing pipeline in the Asheville region. Duke Energy is working with the local distribution company to upgrade the pipeline to accommodate and serve the proposed natural gas plant.

  • The natural gas plant will begin serving customers in late 2019 or early 2020.

Natural gas pipeline

  • There is an existing natural gas pipeline in the region. Duke Energy is working with the local gas distribution company (PSNC) to upgrade the pipeline to accommodate and serve the proposed natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant. This upgrade will expand the critical infrastructure that will help support industrial growth and economic development in the Western Carolinas region, and provide a firm fuel supply to the proposed natural gas plant.

  • The extension of the pipeline will run through an existing PSNC right-of-way area, which runs from Kings Mountain to Arden, N.C. The extension will connect to the larger intrastate Transco gas pipeline that runs from the Gulf to New York. For more information, please contact PSNC or visit their website: psncenergy.com/pipeline.

  • Based on the current schedule, the pipeline has an in-service date of early 2019.

  • PSNC will receive natural gas sourced from the Transco system.

  • The local distribution company will file the agreement with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC). Duke Energy is simply a customer of this pipeline. PSNC will also work with stakeholders and other agencies along the route to ensure the pipeline expansions have all the needed permits and approvals prior to construction and operation.

Retiring the coal plant and
ash excavation 

  • Based on the current schedule, the company will retire the coal units in early 2020, once the natural gas-fired combined-cycle power plant begins serving customers. The coal units will continue to reliably serve the region until the natural gas plant is ready for operation.

  • Once the units are retired, they will enter the company's decommissioning program. This is a comprehensive and methodical process that takes several years and involves site characterization studies and engineering analyses to determine the best site-specific decisions. The long-term vision for retired units across our system is to return them to ground-level. We will salvage what equipment we can repurpose at other sites, conduct any environmental abatement needed, sell any scrap material we can, safely dismantle and remove the powerhouse, stack and any auxiliary structures no longer needed and then restore the site. This approach is best suited to ensure continued safety, security and environmental compliance at the site into the future, both for the company and the community.

Transmission 

  • The Foothills transmission line and tie station near Campobello, S.C., are no longer required because the revised plan includes two 280-megawatt combined-cycle power plants that will serve the region's current and future energy needs.

    Having multiple units provides the redundancy we need for reliability in the region. The units will also be designed to run on oil as a backup in the event there are any disruptions of the natural gas supply. Additionally, we will work with the community to increase participation in energy efficiency, demand-side management, technology and renewable programs and projects to help manage peak demand.

  • The company has property all across the Carolinas and its other service areas. This property will simply be part of those landholdings. The company no longer has any current plans for this property.

  • The Foothills transmission line project is no longer necessary. However, the company builds and maintains its infrastructure to meet growing needs of customers and comply with regulatory and federal standards and requirements. We have an obligation and responsibility to continue to enhance the reliability of the grid and overall system for all of our customers. As communities grow, we must grow with them to power their daily lives. Any future transmission lines and substations will be based on growth and regulatory needs at that time.

  • The initial plan was the best technical solution and more robust for the long-term, but it wasn't the best practical solution. After receiving feedback from the community throughout public input process, we revised the plan to strike the balance of addressing concerns from the public, minimizing environmental impact and meeting our schedule of being able to supply much-needed generation to this growing area.

    We are eager to continue working with the community to reduce power demand across the region through energy efficiency, demand response and renewable energy and technology to avoid building another power unit on the Asheville site for as long as possible.