More than 100 people gathered at the L.V. Sutton Energy Complex, located off of N.C. 421, on April 22 to celebrate the plant’s successful transition from coal to natural gas.
“The Sutton Plant has really been a part of the community for many years. By bringing the natural gas plant online, it’s a way for Duke Energy to continue serving customers in the area in a reliable and affordable way,” said Duke Energy spokeswoman Catherine Butler during an April 22 phone interview.
Butler said dedication events are held for all new plants, typically within six months of operations beginning.
The Sutton Plant switched to natural gas operations in November 2013.
The new combined-cycle plant generates 625 megawatts of electricity, up 50 megawatts from its coal-powered capability, with emission reductions of 99 percent for sulfur dioxide, 97 percent for nitrogen oxides and 41 percent for carbon dioxide.
The transition at the Sutton Plant is part of a larger effort by Duke toward achieving cleaner methods of power production. Butler said the company invested $9 billion in improvements during the last decade, prompted by North Carolina’s 2002 Clean Smokestacks Act.
Other plants benefitting from investment include the H.F. Lee Combined Cycle Plant, Dan River Combined Cycle Station, Smith Energy Complex and the Buck Combined Cycle Station.
Through a three-step decommissioning and demolition process, the old coal plant will be demolished, bringing the red-and-white striped smokestacks down.
“Those candy-cane smokestacks that are so familiar to people in Wilmington will no longer be there. They’ve been there for 60 years,” Butler said. “… It’s bittersweet but it’s a very exciting time as far as bringing in a new and efficient facility.”
Members of the Sutton family were in attendance at the dedication. Louis V. Sutton, the plant’s namesake, was president and CEO of Carolina Power & Light, a predecessor of Duke. Other notable guests included Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good and vice president of project management and construction John Elnitsky.
Community stakeholders and Sutton employees joined Duke leaders for the dedication, which included a tour of the new facility.
“It’s a passing of the torch. It’s exciting to … see the transformation of our whole fleet and the way we provide electricity to customers,” Butler said.
The event was not open to the public or the press.