The City of Fayetteville has furnished electricity to its citizens since 1900. Fayetteville, like many other cities in North Carolina and in the nation, did not organize an electric utility as a profit-making public enterprise; it did so because that was the only way the citizens could enjoy the benefits of electricity.
The first electric plant of any kind in Fayetteville was installed by the Phoenix Cotton Mill on Ann Street. This plant was driven by water power from Cross Creek, and its output operated the mill and some commercial lighting.
In 1900, the city constructed a steam-driven plant on a site in the 500 block of Russell Street, and immediately began to enlarge the electric distribution system. At that time, the city had a population of less than 5,000 people. The City of Fayetteville operated this electric plant for about five years.
Just prior to 1905, the City plant became inadequate to supply the City’s total electric needs, and was leased to Fayetteville Traction and Power Company. This company constructed a transmission line into Fayetteville from its hydroelectric plant in Manchester, North Carolina. Fayetteville then purchased its electric power from this company and continued to operate its electric distribution system. This arrangement continued until 1914, when Fayetteville Traction and Power Company failed.
At this time, all the generating equipment was overloaded. The Commission signed a contract with Henry T. Dechert, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Trustee for the Fayetteville Traction and Power Company, for the purchase of power. Mr. Dechert agreed to increase the generation capacity at Manchester and at Fayetteville. Before this was accomplished, the Commission canceled the contract with Mr. Dechert and contracted with Carolina Power & Light Company (now Progress Energy) for the purchase of electric power. Since that time, Progress Energy has remained the principle source of power for Fayetteville although the City has continued to own and operate its own distribution system through the years.
The Public Works Commission has constantly expanded facilities in order to keep pace with the accelerated growth of its service area which includes Fayetteville and a sizable area of Cumberland County. Expansion of the electrical system has been significant—from a 20,000 kW system (two substations) in 1960, to a 410,000 kW load (27 substations) in 1995. PWC has three points of delivery (P.O.D.) of bulk electric power from Progress Energy: P.O.D. #1, on Owen Drive, (began operation in 1969); and P.O.D.#2, located in a rural area east of the Cape Fear River (began operation in 1973); and P.O.D.#3, located on Cliffdale Road, (began operation in 1994).
In 2005, PWC began construction on two new substations. The Purolator Substation was completed in the 2006, while the Mintz Pond Substation was completed in 2007. During 2011, PWC embarked on a multi-year program to upgrade several older substations on its system to current standards. Two substations have been completed and design work is in progress on an additional four substations.
Power is received from Progress Energy at 230,000 volts and transformed to 66,000 volts. Transmission of electric power to substations is accomplished by more than 120 circuit miles of 66 kV lines, and serves a total of more than 70,000 electric customers, including 17 industrial customers, among which is the state’s largest manufacturing plant, Goodyear (Kelly Springfield Tire Company).
Between 1976 and 1980, PWC installed eight peak-shaving gas turbine generators capable of producing 200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. In 1988, six of these units were converted to a combined-cycle steam mode which increased generating capacity by approximately 65 MW, for a total of 265 MW of generating capacity. In 1993, a thermal energy storage (ice storage) system was added to the plant for cooling the gas turbines in the summer peak season. When in service, this system enables the plant to operate at its full capacity of 265 MW even during the summer months. This is one of the largest thermal energy storage plants in the world with 4.6 million gallons of ice storage capacity. This plant is now known as the Butler-Warner Electric Generation Plant, in honor of Robert H. Butler and James R. Warner, former chairmen of the Commission. As part of the long term power supply strategy of PWC, the Butler-Warner plant is currently operating under a Power Sales Agreement with Progress Energy (now Duke Energy) to provide an additional source of revenue which can be used to offset the effect of power cost increases.