Duke Energy demolition blast at Sutton Plant startles residents

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Duke Energy imploded a boiler at the retired Sutton Plant in New Hanover County on April 10, 2016. (Photo: Duke Energy)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Duke Energy completed the implosion of one of three boilers at the retired coal-fired L.V. Sutton Plant in Wilmington Sunday.

Some Wilmington residents said the blast woke them up Sunday morning. Some residents near the airport said the blast rattled their windows. One resident said it woke him up.

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A spokesman said this is an important milestone in the retirement of the plant, and in Duke Energy’s plans to shift to cleaner, more efficient energy sources in North Carolina.

The purpose of a boiler in a coal-fired plant is to combust coal to create heat.

The company retired the coal units, and boilers, at Sutton Plant in 2013 after a new natural gas-fired plant came into service at the site. The new natural gas units generate electricity more efficiently for customers and with lower emissions than the coal plant did during its operation.

Since 2013, the team has prepared the site for full demolition. Part of this work includes removing the two iconic red-and-white striped smokestacks using a remote device that was attached to the smokestacks and removed the structure piece by piece. That work has continued for several months and the company expects this phase to be completed in coming weeks.

The April 10 implosion is the first of three similar events to take place at the Sutton Plant. The next is scheduled in May and the final demolition event will take place in the fall of 2016.

Ash basin closure work continues.

Duke Energy continues to make headway moving ash from the Sutton Plant to a fully lined structural fill at the Brickhaven mine site in central North Carolina.

In January, after constructing a nearly two-mile long rail line into the mine site, the company shifted to moving the majority of ash from the plant by rail to expedite this process and minimize the impact to the local community. Crews have excavated around 200,000 tons of coal ash from the Sutton Plant site.

Permitting is also underway to constructing a fully lined landfill on Sutton plant property, which will store the majority of the ash from the basins.

Closing ash basins at the site is part of the overall effort to retire coal ash operations at the Sutton Plant.