In a report filed with the N.C. Utilities Commission, the utility outlined its plan to close a total of 11 coal-fired units, totaling nearly 1,500 megawatts (mw) at four sites in the state, including the L.V. Sutton plant near Wilmington (600 mw); Cape Fear plant near Moncure (316 mw); W.H. Weatherspoon plant near Lumberton (172 mw); and H.F. Lee plant near Goldsboro (397 mw).

This represents about 30% of the company’s coal-fired power generation fleet in North Carolina. It will result in significant emission reductions.

Progress Energy Carolinas has announced a plan to build new generation fueled by natural gas in Wayne County, N.C., and expects to announce additional gas plans in the near future. The company will continue to operate three coal-fired plants in North Carolina after 2017. The company has invested more than $2 billion in installing state-of-the-art emissions controls at the 2,424-mw Roxboro power plant and the 742-mw Mayo power plant, both located in Person County, and the 376-mw Asheville power plant in Buncombe County.

The utility left its coal-fired options open saying that resource planning is a continuous process and plans outlined are based on certain assumptions about anticipated environmental requirements. Should those assumptions change, the utility’s plans might also change.

“Coal-fired generation will continue to be vital to our ability to meet customer electricity needs,” said Lloyd Yates, president and CEO, Progress Energy Carolinas. “But as environmental regulations continue to change, and as even more significant rule changes appear likely in the near future, the costs of retrofitting and operating these plants will increase dramatically. We believe this is the right decision for our customers, our state, and our company.”

The plan was filed in response to a request by the N.C. Utilities Commission. The regulatory agency ordered the company to provide its retirement plans related to unscrubbed coal-fired units in North Carolina. The request was part of the commission’s approval in October of Progress Energy Carolinas’ plan to build a 950-mw power plant, fueled by clean-burning natural gas, in Wayne County.

The plan filed confirms the company’s decision to retire the Lee plant in 2013. Additionally, it provides tentative schedules for other retirements. The company expects to retire the coal-fired Sutton plant in 2014. The plant has three units that came online in 1954, 1955 and 1972. The company will seek approval from state regulators to build a natural gas-fueled plant of approximately the same size as the current coal plant (600 mw) at the Sutton site, located on the Cape Fear River near Wilmington. Due to the location of the plant at the far eastern end of Progress Energy’s electric system, the company must replace the generation in the same area to maintain system reliability.

The company’s Cape Fear and Weatherspoon plants have a total of five coal units (most built in the 1950s). The company plans to retire the units between 2013 and 2017. Due to the sites’ existing infrastructure and proximity to renewable fuel sources (such as wood waste), the company is evaluating the possibility of converting a portion of the total capacity (50 to 150 mw) to use biomass. Progress Energy and other utilities in North Carolina must provide increased amounts of renewable energy under a state law passed in 2007. Biomass is the state’s most plentiful renewable resource.

The company also is evaluating the potential for a future use of the Cape Fear and Weatherspoon plant sites for natural gas-fueled generation. No decisions have been made regarding specific retirement dates or biomass or gas conversion.