State approves Progress Energy plant near Wilmington

Posted June 9, 2010 4:38 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Utilities Commission on Wednesday approved Progress Energy's plans to build a $600 million power plant near Wilmington.

The Raleigh-based utility wants to retire its coal-fired Sutton Plant by 2014 and replace it with a 620-megawatt plant fueled by cleaner-burning natural gas.

“The Sutton Plant has been an important part of our system for more than half a century, and updating the technology we use here will ensure that it remains important,” Lloyd Yates, president and chief executive of Progress Energy Carolinas, said in a statement. “The switch will provide significantly cleaner air and continued reliable service for our customers, while at the same time serving as a catalyst for economic growth and expansion by increasing natural gas supplies in southeastern North Carolina."

As part of the switch, Progress Energy negotiated to extend a major natural gas pipeline to the plant site.

The company plans to file for a state air permit for the new plant in the coming months, and construction is expected to begin in 2011.

Progress Energy said last fall that it would close 11 coal-burning power plants in North Carolina by 2017 because they don't have equipment to contain air pollution.