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Back You are here: Home News Local and State News Local North Carolina's Ozone Levels Lowest On Record In 2013

North Carolina's Ozone Levels Lowest On Record In 2013

Duke Energy Progress' new Sutton natural gas plant in Wilmington, N.C., begins commercial operation

RALEIGH, N.C. : December 16, 2013 - According to a release from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resoures (NCDENR) North Carolina had its lowest ozone levels on record in 2013 since air monitoring began in the early 1970s, due lower air emissions and favorable weather conditions.
In the Wilmington area, after using coal for 59 years the Duke Energy Sutton Power Plant recently switched from coal to natural gas for producing power.
Ozone levels statewide exceeded the federal standard on only one day in 2013, well below the previous record low of six days in 2009 and the average of 22 days during the previous five years. The declining ozone levels went hand-in-hand with lower emissions from the state’s power plants, the largest industrial source of nitrogen oxides (NOx), which are the primary contributor to ozone pollution in North Carolina.
A recent report by the N.C. Division of Air Quality, or DAQ, shows that the state’s coal-fired power plants have cut their NOx emissions by more than 80 percent since the General Assembly enacted the Clean Smokestacks Act in 2002.
NOx emissions totaled 41,641 tons statewide in 2012, well below the cap of 60,000 tons/year set by the act and the baseline emissions of 245,000 tons in 1998.
“Power plants have not just met the requirements of the Clean Smokestacks Act, but have reduced their emissions more than required,” said Sheila Holman, director of the N.C. Division of Air Quality. “These emissions cuts, coupled with reductions from other industries and motor vehicles, have undoubtedly contributed to the improvements in ozone levels.”
Ozone is not emitted directly by sources but forms in the air when nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with hydrocarbons on hot, sunny days with little wind.
Thus, the weather also contributed to low ozone levels in 2013 because the summer was cooler and wetter than usual.
NOx is considered the primary man-made contributor to ozone formation because trees and other vegetation emit most of the hydrocarbons in our air. The primary sources of NOx are power plants, industry and motor vehicles, and those emissions have been declining during the past decade.
The Clean Smokestacks Act required Duke Energy Carolinas and Progress Energy Carolinas (now both owned by Duke Energy, Inc.) to reduce ozone- and particle-forming emissions from coal-fired power plants by about three-fourths compared to 1998 levels.
Utilities have achieved those reductions by installing scrubbers and other pollution controls at their largest facilities, closing some plants and converting others from coal to natural gas.
Stricter federal requirements for industrial facilities as well as motor vehicles also have contributed to the emissions reductions.More information on air quality issues can be found on DAQ’s website, www.ncair.org
According to Duke Energy in a release on December 11th,  "Duke Energy Progress’ new 625-megawatt (MW) L.V. Sutton combined-cycle natural gas plant has begun serving North Carolina and South Carolina customers."
The approximately $600 million dollar plant replaces the existing three-unit, 575 MW coal-fired plant that the company recently retired after 59 years of service.
It represents a significant milestone in the company’s ongoing commitment to generate electricity in cleaner, more efficient ways.
The new plant uses state-of-the-art technology and air quality controls that result in significantly lower emissions than those of the coal plant it replaces. The following figures are compared to coal plant operations in 2007:
• Sulfur dioxide will be reduced by 99 percent
• Nitrogen oxides will be reduced by 97 percent
• Carbon dioxide will be reduced by 41 percent
“We continue to transform our power plant fleet while maintaining our focus on generating electricity that is both reliable and affordable,” said Allen Clare, Duke Energy Progress’ Sutton plant manager. “Our new natural gas plant is another stride forward in meeting customer needs using highly efficient, increasingly clean energy sources.”
Duke Energy has invested $9 billion in the last 10 years to build several advanced natural gas and coal plants in North Carolina and Indiana.
The new plants will allow the company to retire nearly 6,800 MW of older coal and large oil-fired units.
Nearly 6,300 MW of the capacity Duke Energy will retire is coal, which represents 25 percent of its coal fleet. By the end of 2013, Duke Energy will have retired more than 3,800 MW of that 6,300 MW, including the Sutton coal plant.
Sutton’s first coal unit began operating in 1954; two additional units were added in 1955 and 1972, respectively.
Duke Energy soon will begin a multiyear decommissioning process that will result in safely deconstructing the coal units and effectively closing the site’s coal ash basins to protect groundwater.
About Duke Energy Progress
Duke Energy Progress, a subsidiary of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), provides electricity and related services to nearly 1.5 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. The company is headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., and serves a territory encompassing more than 34,000 square miles including the cities of Raleigh, Wilmington and Asheville in North Carolina and Florence and Sumter in South Carolina. More information is available at http://www.progress-energy.com.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at: www.duke-energy.com