Duke Energy has been planning to build a couple of large coal fired power plants near Charlotte. The project, which Duke officially calls the Cliffside Steam Station Modernization includes building two “state of the art” 800 MWe coal fired steam plants and decommissioning four small plants with a total capacity of 198 MWe that are currently units 1-4 of the Cliffside Steam Station.
There has been some opposition to the proposal; you can read about that at some of the following links:
- Electronic Blockade Against Duke Energy’s new Cliffside Coal Power Plant
- Cliffside Expansion Must Be Stopped!
- As We Speed Into a Climate Crisis, Duke Energy Hits the Gas
The opposition had not yet succeeded in changing Duke’s plans, but it appears that a more substantial obstacle, in the form of changed economics is beginning to intercede. According to several recent articles including Rising costs could kill coal plant proposal, the construction cost estimate for the two new plants has increased from $2 billion to $3 billion.
At that price, the coal plant capital cost begins to look very similar to the projected capital costs for new nuclear plants. In addition, there is a mention in the article that pulverized coal prices have also increased, a trend that could lead to increased life cycle operating costs for the facility. Since the electricity that the plants would have produced is needed, Duke is going to present some options to the Public Utility Commission that include natural gas, power purchases from other utilities, and purchasing existing power stations. Pressure groups will attempt to include efficiency programs and renewables as additional options.
Unfortunately, the article concludes with a statement that options that Duke will present to the Public Utility Commission do not include replacing the Cliffside proposal with new nuclear plants – apparently there is a deadline of 2011 for replacing the four existing coal plants.
That is a bit too soon for new nuclear plants to be licensed and constructed. If there were a few more years available, North Carolina could gain a facility that would help alleviate air pollution for the next 60-100 years. Oh well. . .