Rebounding from the loss of the Crystal River nuclear plant, Duke Energy Florida announced plans on May 13 to replace the lost capacity with a new 1,640-MW combined cycle plant on the same site. Duke will also add two combustion turbines, totaling 320 MW, to the Suwannee plant near Live Oak and increase the capacity of its four-unit Hines Energy Complex combined cycle plant in Polk County by adding inlet chillers. Those upgrades will boost summer output by 220 MW.

The troubled Crystal River 3 nuclear plant, then owned by Progress Energy, went offline in 2009 for a steam generator replacement, but never restarted after delamination was discovered in the concrete of the containment building. A planned restart in 2011 was cancelled after additional damage was discovered following repairs. Following the Duke-Progress merger in 2013, Duke Energy opted for retirement after estimates for repairs ballooned over $1.5 billion.

The 842-MW plant had served central Florida since 1977. The other four units on the site, all coal-fired, continue operating. However, the two oldest units, which came online in the 1960s, will need expensive emissions controls to continue in service, and Duke has instead opted to retire them.

The new four-unit combined cycle plant will be built on a 400-acre parcel adjacent to the existing Crystal River site, and is expected to cost about $1.5 billion. Assuming all regulatory approvals are received, construction is expected to start in early 2016. The first 2×1 820-MW block is expected to come online in spring 2018, and the second is expected to be available by December 2018. Around 600 to 700 jobs will be created during construction.

Duke plans to formally submit the project to the Florida Public Service Commission for approval on May 27; a ruling is expected later this year. The two coal-fired units will be retired as the new plant comes online.

The plant will receive its gas through a new pipeline Sabal Trail Transmission is constructing to serve the rising gas demand in Florida as Duke and Florida Power & Light continue a move away from coal, oil, and nuclear. The pipeline, expected to be operational by 2016, will start in Alabama, extend through Georgia, and end in Central Florida.

The 129-MW Suwannee Plant, in Live Oak between Tallahassee and Jacksonville, consists of three 1950s-era oil-fired boilers and three combustion turbines that went into service in the 1980s. The two new combustion turbines will more than double the current output. The project, which will add 320 MW of new peaking capacity, will cost around $197 million. The steam units will be retired when the new turbines come online in 2016.

Finally, the comparatively new Hines Energy Complex (the first of four 2×1 blocks started up in 1999, with the other three in 2003, 2005, and 2007) in Bartow, east of Tampa Bay, is getting an upgrade that will boost its current 1,912-MW output. The $160 million project, expected to be completed by 2017, will add inlet chillers to increase efficiency during sweltering Florida summers.

“We are making these investments to continue providing our customers with the most cost-effective energy solutions and highest level of reliability with limited environmental impact,” said Alex Glenn, Duke Energy state president Florida. “We are committed to ensuring our customers’ energy needs are met 24 hours a day, seven days a week now and in the future.”

—Thomas W. Overton is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine)