Sunday, July 14, 2024

Duke Energy seeks ’26 construction start for Catawba gas plant

Duke Energy is firming up plans to add a large natural gas plant at Lake Norman in Catawba County, with construction expected to start in 2026 if approved by regulators.

The two combustion turbines fired by natural gas would produce as much as 900 megawatts, capable of powering more than 700,000 homes. It would also enable Duke to retire the oldest two units, producing 760-megawatts, at the Marshall Steam Station plant, which started in 1965. It has two other units expected to operate through 2031.

The new plant would go into service in 2028, pending approval by the N.C. Utilities Commission. A decision is expected later this year.

The Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental groups are pressing Duke to expand alternative energy generation rather than investing in more natural gas-powered plants. But the third-largest U.S. electric utility, based on stock market value, views natural gas as an essential bridge to meet its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.

Duke has said its projections for peak demand have soared eight-fold in the past year because of unprecedented growth in the Carolinas, stemming from new manufacturing plants, data centers and population growth.

“To meet customers’ needs, we’re proposing to accelerate every resource available to us: solar, storage, natural gas, nuclear and wind as we maintain our diverse, all-of-the-above approach to protect reliability and affordability,” Kendal Bowman, Duke Energy’s North Carolina president, said in a statement.

Replacing the Marshall coal-fired units is expected to cut nitrous oxide emissions by 82%, sulfur dioxide emissions by 92% and carbon dioxide by 40% per megawatt hour, Duke says. The emissions were reduced when the utility added natural gas to the plant in 2020-21.

The plants would be built on a 20-acre parcel on existing Duke Energy property, a mile north of the coal units.

Duke wants to make a similar transition at its Roxboro coal plant in Person County. There, the existing coal plant makes up nearly 10% of the tax base in a county of nearly 40,000. The new gas plant would connect to a new pipeline proposed by Virginia-based Dominion Energy.

The Marshall plant is near Sherrills Ford in larger, more diversified Catawba County and is located amid some of North Carolina’s priciest residential real estate because of the popularity of adjacent Lake Norman. Duke is Catawba’s second-largest taxpayer.

Duke hasn’t disclosed the costs of the new natural gas plants. It has said its customers can expect to pay at least 3.6% more annually as it transitions to cleaner energy.



David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at

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