"This important step forward provides certainty for neighbors about our closure plans and allows us to recycle more coal ash to benefit our customers and North Carolina's economy," said David Fountain, Duke Energy's North Carolina president.
Check out this video of Duke Energy's retired Buck Steam Station, located in Salisbury, N.C.
Coal ash is a non-hazardous material created when coal is burned to produce electricity. Recycling is the only way to avoid permanent disposal of the material. However, much of the ash stored in basins has too much carbon to be used in concrete products. To make coal ash more suitable for recycling, Duke Energy is making additional, significant investments in technology designed to reprocess coal ash from basins.
North Carolina's coal ash law encourages even more recycling and requires the company to install three recycling units across the state, making 900,000 or more tons of material available each year. In 2015, Duke Energy recycled nearly two-thirds of the ash produced across its states.
Today's announcement is well ahead of state deadlines for announcing locations for recycling units. The locations for the second and third units are still being evaluated, and a decision is expected in the coming months. Next, the company will work with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to acquire necessary permits and begin processing material.
Duke Energy's plan to remove and recycle ash at the Buck facility also addresses the issues in a federal citizen lawsuit brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). Both Duke Energy and SELC will make the necessary court filings to dismiss that case.
"This is another important step forward on our path to advance ash basin closure at Buck and builds on our ongoing efforts to close all basins safely and responsibly," Fountain said.
Benefits of coal ash recycling
A recent evaluation conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) confirmed recycling ash for concrete as one of the most practical and proven uses of the material. The study examined well-established uses for ash, commercial beneficiation technologies and innovative technologies. It also helped identify locations for recycling units that are in close proximity to demand for the material, while also being compatible with the volume and type of ash at the sites.
More than half of the concrete produced in the United States contains coal ash because it makes roads, bridges and buildings more durable. Some of the world's most iconic and sustainable structures were built using coal ash, including One World Trade Center in New York City. For every ton of coal ash used as a replacement for portland cement in concrete, approximately 1 ton of greenhouse gas emissions is avoided. More information about Duke Energy's coal ash recycling efforts and the EPRI study is available at duke-energy.com/ash-management.
Safely closing ash basins
Duke Energy is making significant progress in safely closing all of its ash basins in ways that protect people, the environment and families' wallets. The company previously announced a number of closure plans that also comply with North Carolina's unique coal ash law.