Belews Creek Steam Station

Construction on the Belews Creek Power Station was completed in 1974. By 1975, both of its coal-fired furnaces were fully operational. Located on Belews Lake in Stokes County, North Carolina, this power station is owned and operated by Duke Energy.  The Belews Creek Station is powered by two supercritical Babcock & Wilcox boilers. This power plant also uses four Westinghouse generators. The station’s two high/intermediate pressure generators were replaced during an upgrade, but their two low pressure generators are the original Westinghouse units that have been in place since the power station began operations.

This plant is Duke Energy’s biggest coal-fired power station in the Carolinas and was rated the most efficient coal-burning plant in the United States in 2008. The Belews Creek Steam Station has a conversion efficiency of 37.8%. The other 62.2% of energy created by the burning coal is dumped as heat energy into Belews Lake, which was created by Duke Energy to cool water used in the plant’s energy production.

Duke Energy has put into place a variety of pollution control systems as part of their commitment to make the Belews Creek Power Station as ecologically friendly as possible. In 2008, the plant finished a $500 million flue gas desulfurization project, resulting in 95% lower sulfur dioxide emissions. As part of its campaign to lower the impact of this plant on the local environment, Belews Creek utilizes low NOx burners in the boiler, a selective catalytic reducer to remove nitrogen oxides and an electrostatic precipitator to remove fly ash.

Fine particle pollution from the Belews Creek Power Station has caused some illness and death in members of the local community. The Environmental Protection Agency’s June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings included the Belews Creek Steam Station’s Active Ash Pond because a dam failure at the site would probably cause the loss of human life.

Power plants that were built up to the mid-1970s, like the Belews Creek Steam Station, often used asbestos in their construction materials. At that time, asbestos was thought to provide the best insulation and protection from the spread of fire. Valves, pipes, turbines, cables, pumps and similar parts that were deemed highly flammable were often coated with asbestos. In addition, building materials used in the construction of floors, ceilings, and walls frequently included asbestos.  Sadly, this asbestos would prove to be a serious threat to the health of the workers who encountered it on a daily basis.