One Fifth Of Duke's North Carolina Power Down For 'Outage Season'
Duke Energy has taken about a fifth of the power it can generate off-line in North Carolina, as part of what the energy industry calls “outage season.”
The Marshall coal plant in Mooresville is still burning coal, but one of the plant’s four units is cold. A generator lies open, exposed, and hollow—the magnet inside which actually creates the electricity is gone.
“Every so many years we pull these apart and inspect them,” says Jason Allen, a Duke Energy vice president. “Just to make sure that it’s in good shape to run for the next five to six years.”
It’s part of outage season, a spring and fall tradition for power companies around the country. During those milder seasons, when customers use less electricity for heating and cooling, utilities give their power plants the equivalent of an oil change.
At Marshall, workers climb into the shafts where the coal is ground, inspect emissions filters, and replace worn parts. One crew clambers over a metal turbine and uses an impact wrench to unscrew the bolts of its cover.
The goal is to finish work by the end of May, before the real heat hits.
“A lot of people just have no idea what it takes to make electricity,” says Allen. “You’re used to flipping the switch and flip the switch off, takes a lot of work, and there’s a lot behind it.”
Including just its hydro, natural gas, and coal plants, Duke Energy expects to spend a billion dollars on this year’s outage seasons.