Progress Energy to close 177-MW W.H. Weatherspoon coal-fired power plant near Lumberton, North Carolina, on Oct. 1 as part of its fleet-modernization program; utility announced plans in 2009 to shut down 11 coal-burning units at four sites in state

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter

Sep 28, 2011 – Progress Energy

LUMBERTON, North Carolina , September 28, 2011 (press release) – Progress Energy Carolinas on Oct. 1 will officially close the coal-fired W.H. Weatherspoon Power Plant near Lumberton, N.C., the first such retirement under the utility’s fleet-modernization program.

The Weatherspoon Plant, named for a retired Carolina Power & Light company executive, has been a vital part of meeting the needs of Carolinas customers since it began commercial operation in 1949. The plant was the first major construction project in the company’s post-World War II expansion. Two more coal-fired units were added in the 1950s, bringing the plant’s total coal generating capacity to 177 megawatts (MW). Four peaking units at the site, fueled by natural gas and oil, were added in the 1970s and will continue to operate as needed to meet customer demand.

“For 62 years, the Weatherspoon Plant has been a key part of our ability to meet the electricity demands of our customers around the clock,” said Bill Johnson, chairman, president and CEO of Progress Energy. “The hundreds of employees who have worked at Weatherspoon over the years have been closely tied to Robeson County and the region, and the plant’s long and productive life has been a testament to their outstanding dedication to safety, efficiency and reliable service.”

In 2009, Progress Energy announced a plan to shut down 11 coal-burning units at four sites in North Carolina. Other plants slated for retirement include the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro, the L.V. Sutton Plant near Wilmington and the Cape Fear Plant near Moncure. The retirements, representing about 1,500 MW, or 30 percent of Progress Energy’s coal generating fleet in North Carolina, are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2013.

As part of the fleet-modernization plan, the company has invested more than $1 billion in technology to reduce emissions dramatically at the Roxboro and Mayo plants in Person County and the Asheville Plant in Buncombe County. Progress Energy will continue to operate those coal-fired facilities after the others are retired.

Progress Energy has two projects under way to replace the retiring coal-fueled generating capacity with plants fueled by natural gas. A new 920-MW natural gas-fueled combined-cycle facility is under construction at the Lee Plant site near Goldsboro. That project, including a gas pipeline extension, is expected to begin commercial operation in January 2013.

At the Sutton Plant site near Wilmington, Progress Energy is building a gas-fueled combined cycle plant with a generating capacity of 625 MW. That addition, with a corresponding natural gas pipeline extension into southeastern North Carolina, is expected to be online at the end of 2013.

Progress Energy has worked to minimize job losses associated with the fleet-modernization plan. At the Weatherspoon Plant, some employees are retiring, and many have transferred to other company facilities. Others will stay at the site for 12 to 18 months to work on decommissioning the plant.

Progress Energy (NYSE: PGN), headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., is a Fortune 500 energy company with more than 22,000 megawatts of generation capacity and approximately $10 billion in annual revenues. Progress Energy includes two major electric utilities that serve about 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The company has earned the Edison Electric Institute's Edison Award, the industry's highest honor, in recognition of its operational excellence, and was the first utility to receive the prestigious J.D. Power and Associates Founder's Award for customer service. The company is pursuing a balanced strategy for a secure energy future, which includes aggressive energy-efficiency programs, investments in renewable energy technologies and a state-of-the-art electricity system. Progress Energy celebrated a century of service in 2008. Visit the company’s website at

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