(The Center Square) – Energy demands eight times greater than predicted two years ago are driving Duke Energy’s move to double its plans for hydrogen-capable natural gas generation in Person County.
The addition is among several changes to the Charlotte-based company’s Carolina Resources Plan filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission on Wednesday. It also includes an additional natural gas plant in South Carolina, solar generation and storage, and potential offshore wind projects.
The 1,360-megawatt Person County plant would be build adjacent to Duke Energy’s existing coal plant, and would be in addition to another natural gas plant slated for the site that was announced in August. The new natural gas plants are aimed at replacing power from coal plants Duke Energy plans to retire by 2035, en route to comply with the state’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.
The updated plan points to a 70% reduction in carbon emissions by 2035 as the cheapest, most realistic pace to achieve the carbon reduction goals without overburdening ratepayers. Lawmakers gave Duke Energy flexibility with the interim goal of 70% carbon reduction by 2030.
“Our filing outlines additional resources necessary to get the job done and help North Carolina retain its leadership in both economic development and the clean energy transition,” Duke Energy North Carolina President Kendal Bowman said in a video announcement. “This additional growth is unprecedented – historic in size and speed. So to meet customers’ needs, we’re proposing to accelerate every resource available to us.”
Duke Energy expects to employ up to 80 full-time employees and more than 1,500 part-time employees at the new plants, with construction to begin toward the end of next year if approved by regulators. Those plants are expected to halve the current emissions from the coal plant.
The plants will be supplied with gas from Dominion Energy, which has plans to construct a $400 million liquefied natural gas facility in Person County that was approved by county commissioners in December. Construction is slated to start there this year and it’s expected to go online in late 2026.
Duke Energy’s carbon plan has faced criticism from environmental groups for its continued reliance on new natural gas facilities and omission of offshore wind in near-term development activities. The new plan to increase capacity by 2 gigawatts would include 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035, something the Southeastern Wind Coalition contends is recognition of the “incredible value” wind brings to the grid.
“Duke’s updated modeling and supplemental portfolio clearly illustrates how important offshore wind will be to providing the large quantities of carbon-free electricity needed to reliably run the grid,” Katharine Kollin, coalition president, said in a statement. “Offshore wind is an incredible resource that will diversify power generation and provide electricity when we need it most – winter mornings and summer afternoons.”
In addition to the added offshore wind, Duke Energy expects to have about 6,800 megawatts of combined-cycle natural gas capacity by 2033, as well as 6,360 megawatts of solar and 2,700 megawatts of battery storage by 2031.