FPL Will Build New Gas Plant, Adds More Solar

Florida regulators on March 1 approved Florida Power & Light’s (FPL’s) plan to build a new $888 million natural gas-fired power plant, replacing an existing gas- and oil-fueled plant on the same site in Dania Beach that is being retired this year. The utility on Thursday also announced the opening of four new solar power plants in Florida, joining four others that FPL opened in January of this year.

The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) supported FPL’s plan for the new 1,163-MW Dania Beach Clean Energy Center. The PSC said reusing infrastructure from the existing Lauderdale plant at the site was the most cost-effective way to lower emissions and meet rising demand for electricity in the region. The new facility will use the same gas infrastructure, substation, and transmission lines as the existing plant, and emissions will be 95% lower for nitrogen oxide and 22% lower for carbon dioxide, according to the PSC. Water used by the plant will drop by more than 1 million gallons a day, the PSC said.

The four new solar plants that opened Thursday each have generation capacity of 74.5 MW; they are similar to the four solar projects FPL began operating on January 1. The solar additions and approval of the new Dania Beach plant are just part of what’s been a busy start to the year for FPL. On January 5, the utility officially retired the 1,300-MW St. Johns River Power Park in Jacksonville, its last coal-fired plant in the state. FPL is still part-owner of the coal-fired Plant Scherer in Georgia, which was profiled as the PRB Coal Users’ Group’s Plant of the Year in the July 2017 issue of POWER.

Electricity has been produced at the Dania Beach site since 1927, when it served as FPL’s first power plant. It has been upgraded or repowered three times since, and the current generating units—Units 4 and 5—were last updated about 25 years ago. Some of their components date to the 1950s.

This is a rendering of the proposed Dania Beach Clean Energy Center, which will replace the existing Lauderdale power plant in Florida. Florida Power & Light says the new facility could come online in 2022. Courtesy: Florida Power & Light

FPL said the modernized facility will be similar to its Port Everglades Clean Energy Center, a 1,277-MW gas-fired plant that opened in 2016, replacing a 1960s-era oil-burning plant at the same site. The utility said its investments in modernizing its power generation system since 2001 have significantly lowered its carbon emissions and reduced its use of foreign oil from more than 40 million barrels per year to less than 1 million barrels annually.

“The Dania Beach Clean Energy Center will save FPL customers from $299 million to $364 million, as well as generate additional tax revenues for local governments and new jobs during the plant’s construction,” said Art Graham, the PSC chairman. “The new plant will also reduce harmful air emissions, helping environmental quality.”

The plant is one of several new power plants opened by FPL in recent years, including the Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center in Brevard County that opened in 2013 near the Kennedy Space Center, and the Riviera Beach Clean Energy Center, which opened in 2014 in Palm Beach County.

The Cape Canaveral Clean Energy Center in Florida, near the Kennedy Space Center, opened in 2013. It is one of several new projects from Florida Power & Light that have come online in the past few years. Courtesy: Aaron Larson / POWER magazine

Dave McDermitt, a spokesman for Juno Beach, Florida-based FPL, said the current timetable, pending other environmental and state approvals, calls for the new Dania Beach plant to begin commercial operation by June 2022. McDermitt said the existing plant could be dismantled by the end of this year. He said about 600 jobs would be created by construction of the new plant, though just 30 people will be needed to operate the upgraded facility.

The PSC in July 2017 voted unanimously to allow FPL to move forward with developing a plan for the Dania Beach plant, despite opposition from Florida’s Office of Public Counsel (OPC), which represents electricity ratepayers in the state. The OPC last year said FPL had not met what it call the “burden of proof” showing the need for a new plant. The PSC, though, said ratepayers would benefit from modernization of the Dania Beach plant, since FPL’s plan called for reusing the existing infrastructure at the site. It also cited the increased need for power in the region.

FPL, which currently serves about 5 million accounts, or about 10 million people, has said it will add another 200,000 accounts by 2022.

About 8,000 residents of Dania Beach recently signed petitions and sent regulators comments in opposition to the new plant, and in January some FPL customers met with regulators at hearings in Tallahassee, saying they did not want a new fossil-fueled plant, instead preferring renewable energy, such as solar. The Sierra Club also has argued against the new plant.

PSC commissioner Julie Brown, who made the motion Thursday to approve the plant, said the facility is needed to ensure reliability of power, particularly for Dade and Broward counties in south Florida. Those two counties account for more than 44% of power demand in FPL’s service territory, she said.

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

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