FP&L Seeks State Exemption to Build New Florida Plant

Florida regulators next week will consider whether to support an exemption to a state rule, a move that could speed the approval process for a new 1,163-MW natural gas-fired power plant on the state’s Atlantic coast.

Florida Power & Light (FPL), the nation’s third-largest electric utility, has proposed the $888 million power plant for Broward County. The facility would replace an existing but outdated natural gas-fired plant on the same site in Dania Beach, where FPL began operating its first power plant in the late 1920s. The state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) last week recommended the exemption, which would mean FPL would not have to issue “requests for proposals (RFPs)” normally required for new plants. The RFP process is to ensure that building a new facility is more economical than other alternatives, such as retrofitting an existing plant with new technology.

The PSC is scheduled to discuss the issue at a July 13 meeting. FPL, which provides electricity to about 10 million customers in Florida, says the Broward County project is among several it is proposing as part of a series of new natural gas-fired plants in the state, all while it shutters coal-fired generation and increases its use of natural gas and solar-generated power.

“A central component of FPL’s argument for the exemption from the RFP requirement is that FPL’s reuse of an existing plant site provides numerous economic and qualitative benefits that would be unmatched by any potential RFP respondent,” the recommendation from the PSC said. “The Lauderdale (Dania Beach) site currently features access to transmission, natural gas pipelines and water supply facilities near a major load pocket that can be utilized by the new generating unit.”

Florida Power & Light wants to replace the aging Lauderdale Plant in Dania Beach, Fla., with a new natural gas-fired facility as it looks to further cut power plant emissions. Courtesy: Florida Power & Light

Dave McDermitt, an FPL spokesman, earlier this year told reporters the new plant–the utility plans to call it the Dania Beach Clean Energy Center–would increase generating capacity from the current plant’s 920 MW while cutting emissions by 70%. The current plant, called the Lauderdale Plant, was last modernized more than 20 years ago, according to McDermitt.

FPL, a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy, submitted its plans for the new plant to the PSC in May, at the same time it also asked for permission to close the coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park (SJRPP) in Jacksonville, Fla. The company, which jointly owns the plant with JEA,  wants to shut the 1,252-MW SJRPP by the end of 2017. It would be the third coal-fired plant phased out by the utility in the past two years. FPL in March announced plans to build eight new solar power plants–what it calls “universal solar projects”–in the state, with an expectation of having all eight in operation no later than March 2018.

The new Dania Beach plant, along with the increased solar generation, is part of FPL’s 2017-2026 Ten-Year Site Plan filed with state regulators in April. Under the plan, FPL expects that solar power will take a larger percentage of the company’s generation mix than coal and fuel oil combined by 2020.

FPL said the new Dania Beach gas-fired plant would begin operating in June 2022 if the PSC approves its plans. Little new infrastructure would be required at the site; McDermitt said no new transmission lines, water lines or gas pipelines would be needed.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine)