Progress Energy will shut down a coal-fired plant near Lumberton six years ahead of schedule.
Progress Energy spokesman Drew Elliot says the plant has provided more than a half century of reliable service:
"But times are changing and environmental regulations are changing. Our customers' expectations of how we produce the power that they need is changing. So when we look at all that combined with the relative price of natural gas and coal currently, it made economic sense to accelerate the retirement of the units."
Elliot also says there are significant benefits in air quality to switching to natural gas-powered plants:
"Reductions of sulfur compounds, of nitrogen compounds, and of mercury. In addition, an added benefit is that natural gas fired generation per megawatt hour produces about half the CO2 that that same megawatt hour from a coal-powered plant would produce."
The W.H. Weatherspoon plant has been running since 1949. Elliot says lately it was only being run when demand for electricity was high:
"It was more of a plant that we used for what we called load-following generation. So as people start turning on their air-conditioners in the afternoon or on cold days start cranking up the heat in the morning, that's when we would fire up the Weatherspoon units to help meet that need."
The Weatherspoon plant will close this fall.