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Cope Generating Station (copy)

Dominion Energy South Carolina President of Electric Operations Keller Kissam said the Cope Generating Station, which employs about 70, is the newest and "best in the fleet" of the utility's stations.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Company's Cope Generating Station and Calhoun County's Columbia Energy Center will remain operational with the merger of SCANA Corp. and Virginia-based Dominion Energy.

Workforce reductions are not projected at either plant, Dominion Energy South Carolina President of Electric Operations Keller Kissam told The Times and Democrat during a visit to the newspaper in March.

"Cope represents the very best of what we have in the electric industry because, yes, it is a fossil-fired plant, but it has environmental controls on it to reduce sulfur dioxide and NOx (nitrogen oxide) and mercury," said Kissam, a Calhoun County native and former chief operating officer and president of generation, transmission and distribution for SCE&G.

Kissam said the plant is good for the environment and is dual-fired -- using coal and natural gas.

"That is good for a lot of reasons," Kissam said. "It is able to do quick start and you can vary that load on natural gas because you got all this solar sitting over here that might be putting output when the sun is shining. What happens when the thunderstorm rolls through? It is gone."

The load does not change when solar generation is lost, meaning Cope's ability to quickly produce power is vital, he said.

Kissam said the Cope station, which employs about 70, is the newest and "best in the fleet" of the utility's stations and is not going anywhere.

"From an operations standpoint, you will not send somebody from Richmond to put power back on in South Carolina," Kissam said. "Being a dual-fired facility, it is going to be there."

The Cope plant generates about 500 megawatts of electricity. It contributes approximately $7.2 million in property taxes annually.

In the Sandy Run area in Calhoun County, the Columbia Energy Center, formerly Calpine, employs about 20 and, like the Cope station, is a key part of Dominion's arsenal, Kissam said.

In May 2018, SCE&G's parent company SCANA acquired CEC for $180 million. The plant puts out about 571 megawatts and runs 100 percent on natural gas.

"That has been a good plant since we bought it," Kissam said. "We run it every day. It is a very efficient unit."

Kissam estimates the combined output of the Cope and Calhoun plants accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the utility's power.

Kissam noted that not only does The T&D Region have two power plants, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College will continue to serve as a hub for Dominion's training of employees for power generation, be they welders, electricians or instrument mechanics.

"All across our state, Orangeburg is the epicenter of where we do all our training," Kissam said.

Kissam said Orangeburg County is also a prime service area for Dominion, especially in light of the continued growth along the coast and the expected movement of population further inland.

"Look at our new transmission lines we have," he said, noting how the utility has infrastructure in place to anticipate future economic growth. "That is the backbone of our system and that is going to benefit Orangeburg County tremendously."

Kissam explained that the infrastructure is built with steel and aluminum that can withstand winds of 150 mph, creating a reliable network of power.

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Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Check out Zaleski on Twitter at @ZaleskiTD.

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Staff Writer

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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