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Energy & Environment
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Duke Begins $200M Upgrade At South Carolina Hydroelectric Project

One of four turbines inside the mountain serve two purposes: to generate electricity and to pump water back up into the lake.
David Boraks
Turbines inside the mountain at Bad Creek generate electricity and pump water back up into the lake.

Duke Energy has begun a $200 million project to add electrical generating capacity at a big hydroelectric dam in South Carolina. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Aug. 6 approved a license amendment that lets Duke install more powerful turbines at the Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station on Lake Jocassee, in northwest South Carolina.

The dam is a kind of natural battery - what's called a pumped-storage facility. Duke pumps water up from the lake when power demand is lower and releases it to generate power when demand is high, such as hot summer days.

Duke plans to replace Bad Creek's four existing turbines by adding one per year between 2019 and 2023, according to filings with FERC.  

The new, more efficient turbines will increase the station's total generating power from 1,065 megawatts to 1,400 megawatts. Duke says the upgrade eventually will allow it to serve an additional 250,000 customers.

Duke also says the project will help balance power from other sources and increase generating capacity during periods of high demand.

Bad Creek opened in 1991 inside a mountain next to the lake. It's one of two pumped-storage projects in Duke's power network. The other is at the opposite end of Lake Jocassee, above Lake Toxaway.