Duke listening to landowners as it selects route

Published 9:38 pm Tuesday, August 18, 2015

To the editor:

Duke Energy meets the daily energy needs of more than 11 million Carolinians by connecting 50 power plants to 190,000 miles of power line. This infrastructure touches all of our communities. It connects homes and business to reliable energy resources across both states, powering the economy and daily conveniences.

As our communities prosper, electricity demand grows, and we must grow with it. Such is the case in western North Carolina where, since 1970, overall energy usage has more than doubled and the peak energy demand has increased 360 percent.

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Duke Energy plans to invest $1.1 billion in new electrical infrastructure to meet the growing needs. Over the next several years, we will retire the 376-megawatt Asheville coal plant, build a 650-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant and install solar generation. We’ll also build a new substation in Campobello, S.C. and a new 40-mile, 230-kilovolt transmission line to connect the region and the new plant to the existing electric grid.

Why build a new plant?

The existing coal plant (which is used to meet the region’s continuous energy demand) and oil-burning units (which are used to meet peak demand) and existing transmission lines (which can import about 400 megawatts) together are not enough to reliably meet the energy needs of the region. Today, our operators have access to about 1,100 megawatts of energy capacity. Peak energy demand for the region last year topped out at 1,183 megawatts requiring the activation of voluntary load control programs, smart grid-enabled voltage reductions and an overall request for voluntary conservation to manage through the peak. If the area continues to grow as expected, by 2020, extreme weather events like this year’s arctic blast or the Polar Vortex of 2014 could leave the region without power.

There is no single solution. Even with a new, larger power plant, renewable generation, smart grid programs and ongoing energy efficiency initiatives, we must have additional capacity to meet the region’s energy needs when the plant is unavailable.

Why build a new substation and transmission line?

The existing transmission infrastructure that serves the region is simply not able to provide adequate capacity in the coming years. The new substation and transmission line will connect the new plant and the region to our main transmission system, making it possible to jointly produce and deliver energy to benefit customers in both states. This  ultimately saves money for everyone.

The closest location to the main transmission infrastructure is a 525 kV transmission line that runs between McGuire Nuclear Station in North Carolina and Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina. And the closest and most viable location to connect to that line is in Campobello, S.C. near where it crosses Interstate 26.

The need is real, and so too, are the emotions area property owners have expressed in response to these plans. That’s what makes this work difficult, and why we are using a robust site selection process that’s time tested and considered an industry best practice.

To date, we’ve received thousands of comments from residents, elected officials and others. We appreciate the feedback and welcome more, because we are listening. Many of the concerns we’ve heard have been about the extended timeline and the long period of uncertainty. To address that, we’ve expanded the team and revised our schedule and will now select a final route by early October 2015. While we are expediting our decision, we are not sacrificing thoroughness.

Ultimately, we know some property owners will be disappointed with the final decision, but we will be open and fair throughout the process. We will listen and consider all feedback to ensure the route selected has the least overall impact on property owners, the environment and the communities we serve.

The public comment period ends August 31, so I encourage you to stay informed and offer comments by visiting the website http://dukeenergyfoothillsproject.power-viz.com/. You can also reach us by phone at 888-238-0373 and email WCTransmissionEnhancements@duke-energy.com.


Robert Sipes

Duke Energy

Western Regional General Manager