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Duke Energy to build natural gas power plant as green energy methods fall short


Carolina Journal

Duke Energy has revealed plans to build a new natural gas power plant in Catawba County beginning in 2026, sticking to a reliable energy source as demand growth accelerates and green energy options fall short.

Duke Energy filed an application to construct the new facility with the North Carolina Utilities Commission last week. If approved, the proposed plant would open in 2029 and replace the current Marshall Steam Station, one of its largest facilities that runs off both coal and natural gas. The new plant would contain two units with a total capacity of 850 megawatts. 

In the filed paperwork, Duke states the new facility is part of its “least cost energy transition strategy to reliably add new generation to the Companies’ combined systems while enabling the orderly retirement of aging, coal-fired generating facilities.” 

Critics have said the plan indicates continued reliance on fossil fuels, while experts note that natural gas emits far fewer emissions than coal. Natural gas became price-competitive with coal in the 2000s and is widely considered the the “bridge fuel” between coal and zero-emissions nuclear, explains Jon Sanders, director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life at the John Locke Foundation. He said natural gas could potentially be a bridge to hydrogen power, as well, when that technology becomes viable. 

“I am speaking in the world of practical realities,” said Sanders. “Those are reliable, baseload sources. Natural gas is a big reason why our state’s emissions from electricity generation has been cut nearly in half since 2005. It’s a story that media don’t like to tell.”

Due to the high rate of population growth, expansion of manufacturing industry, and other major economic developments, Duke recently revamped its energy forecast, predicting ‘unprecedented’ power demand in the years ahead. By 2030, power demand could be eight times above what the company estimates were just two years ago. That’s why Duke is adding power capacity. The fresh plans include more reliable baseload energy sources such as natural gas plants and more advanced nuclear reactors, but also include the utilization of both onshore and offshore wind facilities.

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