By Lisa Parrish

“It’s my baby,” said Dave Navey, equipment specialist for Duke Energy.

That 130-ton baby is a new energy-efficient locomotive that hauls coal cars down the track at Marshall Steam Station near Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the past year, Duke Energy has replaced older locomotives with high-efficiency Railserve LEAF Gen-Set Locomotives that are cutting emissions at some of the company’s largest power plants.

In addition to the one at Marshall, new locomotives are also operating at the Asheville Plant and Mayo Steam Plant near Raleigh.”The numbers speak for themselves,” said Navey. “As we introduce more green technologies, alternative fuels, hybrids and plug-ins to our fleet, we are seeing emissions reductions that are good for the environment and good for the communities we serve.”


Exhaust emissions are reduced by 75% for nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide, exceeding 2015 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) air quality standards for locomotives. They are cheaper to operate, burning 75% less diesel fuel. Older models consume an average of 55 gallons of engine oil a month compared with none per month with the LEAF. Instead of taking 20 minutes to crank up and reach operating condition, these machines take about 30 seconds. They are quieter, work by remote control, and are safer and easier to operate.

“A conventional locomotive has a big old diesel engine that sucks up tons of fuel and blows out all kind of black soot. It runs a DC generator. The LEAF Locomotive runs an AC generator, which is more efficient, and it produces more power and torque,” said Navey.

Marshall Steam Station purchased the locomotive with the help of a $200,000 grant from the Clean Fuel Advanced Technology (CFAT) project at the North Carolina Solar Center, a project focused on reducing transportation-related emissions in North Carolina counties that have air quality concerns.

With the grant money and fuel savings combined, the price difference between a standard locomotive and this new technology will be paid for in less than two years.

The Asheville and Mayo Plant locomotives were purchased without grant assistance, costing approximately $900,000 each.

Duke Energy has plans to purchase additional LEAF locomotives for its other coal plants in the Carolinas and Midwest.