North Carolina Economic Development Guide


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26 N o r t h C a r o l i N a E C o N o m i C D E v E l o p m E N t G u i D E and others monitor weather patterns, forecasts, status of solar- and wind-generating farms and other factors at the company's Renewable Control Center. Williams explains that natural-gas power plants can respond to fluctuations in a region's renewable power in a half-hour or less, compared with as much as 12 hours for a cold start at a coal plant, and far longer for nuclear plants. "Some say natural gas and renewables aren't compatible, but natural gas will in fact foster growth in the renewables industry," Piedmont's Trusty adds. "It'll help make those plants viable and economical." The pipeline could have another virtually hidden impact, adds Chaffee of NCEast. Just before entering North Carolina, a 20-inch spur will jut to the east, 80 miles toward the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. The economies of that area and northeastern North Carolina are increasingly merging as thousands of Tar Heels commute across the state line to work. Hampton Roads' Foreign Trade Zone 20, likely to soon be extended to include seven northeast North Carolina counties, will strengthen the tie, and gas-using industries in both regions will tap the spur line. The line's spillover impact could also be felt elsewhere in the state. When St. Augustine, Fla.-based NTE Energy Corp., announced recently it would build a $450 million gas- fired electricity power plant in Rockingham County, north of Greensboro, one of the factors in the decision was the Atlantic Coast Pipeline's possible role as a backup source to the nearby Transco pipeline. "We were pleased because the Transco pipeline runs through the property," says NTE spokesman Mike Green. "But the [pipeline] will certainly add to that robust supply. It just gives us more reassurance." The combined-cycle gas and steam turbines of the plant will generate about 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to serve about 450,000 homes. The power will be sold wholesale to such customers as municipal utilities and industries. Dominion and Duke officials and others say the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to be completed by late 2018, despite delays caused partly by environmental groups that have urged federal regulators and others to block it. They argue that its right of way will scar the land through which it passes, and that the line will pose a potential explosion hazard. Dominion spokesman Aaron Ruby and other proponents, however, remain optimistic. "The next critical stage will be when the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issues its draft and final environmental report," Ruby says. "We anticipate it'll be certified in early 2017 and that we'll begin construction next summer." Meanwhile, Worsinger, the Rocky Mount utility executive, is among those who argue the line's added reliability will let them sleep easier. "We have a great relationship with Piedmont," he says. "But whether electricity or gas, we want the belt and suspenders approach. I never want my pants to fall down, and this will provide us with a great pair of suspenders." Staffers at Duke Energy's Renewable Control Center monitor weather patterns that could impact output of solar and wind farms. Natural-gas power plants can respond to fluctuations in renewable power in a half-hour or less, ensuring reliable energy for customers. PROVIDED BY DUKE ENERGY

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