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Jan 3 (Reuters) - U.S. power company Duke Energy Corp said Thursday three new power plants in North Carolina entered service in December, allowing the company to retire several old coal plants.
The three plants are the 825-megawatt (MW) Cliffside 6 coal-fired unit and the 920-MW H.F. Lee and 620-MW Dan River natural gas fired plants.
Duke said in a release the new plants represented a combined investment of nearly $3.65 billion and were completed within budget.
The company said the new unit at Cliffside allowed it to retire four 1940s-era coal units at the site totaling 198 MW in October 2011, and to commit to retiring another 1,469 MW of older coal generation in North Carolina.
Duke also said it upgraded the existing 562-MW Unit 5 at Cliffside by adding a scrubber in 2011 to reduce sulfur and other acid gases.
With the retirements and upgrades, Duke said the Cliffside site now generates more than twice the electricity with 80 percent less sulfur dioxide and half the nitrogen oxide and mercury than it did previously.
Progress Energy Carolinas, a unit of Duke, retired three older coal units totaling 382 MW and four combustion turbines at the H.F. Lee Plant earlier this fall.
Duke also said it retired 276 MW of coal capacity at the Dan River site in the spring of 2012 and all three older combustion turbines in the autumn.
Duke said construction is also under way at the 625-MW natural gas combined-cycle facility at the Sutton plant in North Carolina, where 575 MW of older coal-fired generation will be retired. The new Sutton gas plant is expected to enter service by the end of 2013.
In addition to investing nearly $6 billion in new plants since 2007 and retiring as much as 6,800 MW of older coal capacity, Duke said it has invested another $7.5 billion for plant upgrades to reduce emissions.
Separately, Duke expects its 618-MW Edwardsport coal gasification plant in Indiana to enter commercial service in mid 2013. The $3.3 billion plant has already produced electricity in test mode. See