Richmond County Daily Journal
Progress Energy broke ground Friday on an addition to its Richmond County plant which will add $2 million a year to the county tax base and bring hundreds of construction jobs.
When completed, the Richmond County Progress Energy Complex will produce twice as much electricity as Progress Energy’s Sharon Harris nuclear plant in New Hill with 1,800 megawatts and will be the second largest site in utilities’ network.
The new $600 million addition to the present plant and a new transmission line will add 12 more jobs to the 34 already in place.
Lloyd Yates, president and chief executive officer of Progress Energy Carolinas, said the groundbreaking represented a “great day for Richmond County and Progress Energy.”
He was appreciative of the partnership of Richmond County with Progress Energy in developing the plant. “We’ve done a lot of work to get to this point,” he said.
Yates stressed that the facility off Airport Road south of Hamlet was designed to be energy efficient with its combined-cycle technology. The new unit is expected to be in operation by mid-2011.
In addition to seeking greater efficiency in generating electricity, Yates said Progress Energy was looking at alternate sources of energy through solar, biomass and wind facilities.
Over the long term, he said Progress Energy was working to produce environmentally-friendly energy production that was both affordable and reliable.
At the peak of construction, Yates said as many as 500 people may be working at the new site known as the Richmond Phase 5 Combined Cycle Project.
Melody Birmingham-Byrd, vice president of the southern region of Progress Energy Carolinas, said the company had been a partner in progress with Richmond County for the past 100 years and looked forward to being partners for the next 100 years.
“This is a great opportunity for Progress Energy and Richmond County,” she said.
The facility will be the second largest generating facility in North Carolina.
Having just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC8) said the occasion was “beyond special” and gave pause for a moment to reflect on the importance of providing energy for future generations.
Power, he said was “not a given,” as he noted many places in the world where there was no guaranteed electricity will be there at the flip of a switch as in America.
In Iraq, he said many would be happy to have electricity eight hours a day; and in Afghanistan only 30 percent of the population has access to electricity. “Never take it for granted,” he said.
Dale Carroll, deputy secretary if the N.C. Department of Commerce, said the expansion of the plant was also important to North Carolina.
He referred to it as a “triple play” in that it added to the local tax base, added to infrastructure and promoted economic development, all three of which he said were goals of Gov. Beverly Perdue statewide.
“This is a major shot in the arm for Richmond County,” he said, making a statement that the county was moving forward. “It is a big win for the county,” Carroll said.
Richmond County Commission Chairman Kenneth Robinette said the tax impact to the county was the same as if 8,300 median-price homes were built, except the county was not going to have to provide the infrastructure necessary to take care of the influx of people which would come with that housing boom. In terms of education alone, 8,300 new homes would require 10 new schools.
“That is the significance of this plant,” he said. “That’s what it means to Richmond County.”
He thanked Progress Energy for its investment in the county on behalf of its citizens.
The Rev. Russell Edwards, Victory Baptist Church, gave the invocation for the ceremony.
Currently the Richmond facility houses five combustion turbines and one combined-cycle unit, all of which run primarily on clean-burning natural gas.
A combined-cycle unit links two or more combustion turbines and powers a steam turbine generator by recycling their waste heat.
Since 2006, Progress Energy in partnership with Richmond County has helped with the attraction of 300 jobs and more than $90 million in capital investment by others in the county.
n Contact reporter Tom MacCallum at 997-3111, ext. 15; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.