By Stan Welch
Well, it’s official. Duke Energy will soon begin a major renovation project at the Lee Steam Plant. Government and business leaders gathered Friday morning at the Anderson Convention Center for the formal announcement. Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy South Carolina state president, formally announced the $600+ million project.
The project calls for the retiring and replacement of the two oldest coal fired generators by April of 2015, and the conversion of the third and newer unit to natural gas. The three natural gas fired units will be capable of producing 750 kilowatts of power; and will be much cleaner and greener in terms of the effects on the environment. Coal will no longer be used at the Lee site.
The plan involves the installation of approximately $100 million in pollution control equipment, according to information presented to the Anderson County Council at a recent meeting. The total capital investment in the project is expected to approach $700 million and employ as many as five hundred construction workers.
Anderson County Council Chairman Tommy Dunn opened the festivities by reminding everyone that Anderson County was the birthplace of Duke Power more than a century ago. He also lauded the efforts of the Council and the economic development department, saying that neither will be satisfied until every Andersonian who wants a job has a job.
Gillespy also acknowledged Duke Power’s roots in Anderson County and promised that the relationship would continue for decades to come.
Senator Tim Scott and Congressman Jeff Duncan sent representatives to express their appreciation and support for the project. Senator Billy O’Dell reminded everyone that, aside from this specific project, Duke Energy plays a large role in the area’s economic development efforts, by providing competitive energy rates for incoming businesses.
State House Ways and Means Chairman Brian White said it was a great day and added that Anderson is now both the Electric City and the Electric County. State Representative Anne Thayer told the story of how her parents bought Duke Power stock, the dividends of which helped pay for her education. She said that she and her husband did the same for their three children, adding that the price of the shares had increased by almost six hundred per cent.
(Photo l-r) Williamston Mayor Mack Durham, County Council Dist. 7 representative Cindy Wilson, Clark Duke Energy South Carolina State President Clark Gillespy, Senator Billy O’Dell, County Council Dist. 6 representative Ken Waters and West Pelzer Councilman Blake Sanders talk about the Duke Energy announcement.
District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson spoke of a new spirit and a renaissance in business in Anderson County, saying that without Duke Power/Energy and its lengthy presence in the county, “We wouldn’t be here today.”
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham woke the crowd up with a long, loud “Whooooo!” worthy of Ric Flair, when he came to the podium. “We’re not used to this kind of news in our part of the county, and I am so excited I can’t stand it. Williamston and Pelzer and West Pelzer are so ready for something like this. This is absolutely a game changer for our area, and we truly appreciate Duke’s investment in our area.”
He also referred to the recent downtown revitalization efforts and the arts center in town as further evidence of major changes coming to the area.