09/08/10 — Progress Energy to break ground on gas-fueled plant

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Progress Energy to break ground on gas-fueled plant

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 8, 2010 2:24 PM

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Thursday at 10 a.m. for Progress Energy's $900 million natural gas-fueled power plant in Wayne County.

Preliminary site preparation will get under way by the end of the year with the bulk of construction being done over the next two years, said Mike Hughes, director of media relations and PEC Communications for Progress Energy.

The plant is expected to come on line in early 2013, he said.

The ceremony for the new plant at the H.F. Lee Energy Complex near Cherry Hospital will include local dignitaries and company executives including Paula Sims, senior vice president, Progress Energy; Dale Carroll, deputy secretary, North Carolina Department of Commerce; Jack Best, chairman, Wayne County Commission; and Robert McCall, Eastern Region vice president, Progress Energy Carolinas.

The plant represents a projected investment of about $900 million and is expected to create up to 500 construction jobs at the height of the 24-month building process.

In addition, Piedmont Natural Gas will build a gas pipeline to the site, enhancing the gas supply to the region, Hughes said. The new plant will increase the amount of electricity that can be produced at the site by about 550 megawatts, while reducing overall emission rates, including carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and mercury.

The existing plant generates 397 megawatts compared to the 950 megawatts that will be generated by the new facility.

"We have a long and very positive relationship with Goldsboro and Wayne County, and we are pleased to be able to make that kind of investment," Hughes said. "It is an investment in the future not just for Goldsboro, but for the region."

Hughes said it is an "exciting project" to provide cleaner energy and will help the company reach its goal of shutting down 30 percent of its coal-fired power plants including the three units at the Lee Plant, which were built in 1951, 1952 and 1962.

In 2000, the company added four combustion-turbine units (fueled interchangeably by natural gas or oil) at the Wayne County Energy Complex located adjacent to the Lee Plant. A fifth combustion turbine was added last year. Those units are used primarily as peaking plants, to meet increased demand for electricity on the hottest and coldest days of the year.

The current plant employs 70 workers. Hughes said Progress Energy is working to help those employees find new jobs -- including training that would allow the employees to work elsewhere in the company

The company will continue to manage and maintain the ash pond at the site where ash leftover from the coal-burning process is stored. The pond will remain active during the construction. However, once coal is no longer used at the facility, no additional ash will go into the pond.

Progress Energy headquartered in Raleigh is a Fortune 500 energy company with more than 22,000 megawatts of generation capacity and $9 billion in annual revenues. Progress Energy includes two major electric utilities that serve approximately 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida.