Fun in the Sun: Cane Island Is a Central Florida Treasure


You must be a power guy or gal to consider a generating station an attraction. If you are, you won’t find a better place to visit than the Cane Island Power Park. The facility is in a picturesque location and maintained like a gem. It’s also the winner of a 2022 POWER Top Plant award.

If you have kids, you’ve probably vacationed in Central Florida, or at least considered it. That’s because Walt Disney World is located there, as are at least a dozen other theme parks and attractions, many of which are tied to Disney, Universal Studios, and SeaWorld.

While Orlando is the city with the most name recognition in the region, the Orlando metropolitan area also includes other municipalities, including Kissimmee, Leesburg, Mount Dora, and Winter Park. What most visitors don’t realize is that all the cities mentioned are members of the Florida Municipal Power Agency (FMPA), a wholesale power agency owned by 31 municipal electric utilities in Florida, representing nearly 2.7 million Floridians. FMPA provides some or all electricity to 24 municipal electric utilities located throughout the state.

A Reliable and Consistent Power Source

One of the power plants that supplies electricity to FMPA’s members is Cane Island Power Park, which, incidentally, is located on a site that butts up against Disney property. Cane Island is jointly owned by FMPA and the Kissimmee Utility Authority (KUA). The facility has four natural gas–fueled units. Units 1, 2, and 3 are split 50/50 between the two organizations, and Unit 4 is wholly owned by FMPA. KUA manages the day-to-day operations.

All of the Cane Island gas turbines are GE models. Unit 1 is a 40-MW simple cycle LM6000 that is operated for peaking purposes. Units 2, 3, and 4 are all combined-cycle units. Unit 2 features a 7EA gas turbine and can generate 125 MW. Units 3 and 4 are both 7FA gas turbines with capacities of 260 MW and 315 MW, respectively, following major upgrades to Unit 3 completed earlier this year.

Cane Island Power Park came online in 1994 and has consistently exceeded expectations for reliability and efficiency. In 2021, for example, the station generated more than 3.8 TWh of electricity, and boasted record-breaking continuous runs on Unit 3 (234 days) and Unit 4 (185 days). Unit 3’s streak was the longest continuous run ever in FMPA’s fleet.

Cane Island has also had excellent availability as demonstrated by the units’ equivalent availability factors (EAFs). In 2021, Units 2, 3, and 4 logged EAFs of 95.6%, 96.8%, and 93.4%, respectively. Units 2 and 3 had no forced outages during the year, and Unit 2 had a 100% EAF during peak summer months.

Maintenance Is Key

One reason the plant operates so well is the staff’s keen focus on maintaining equipment properly. In Fall 2021, the station undertook a major maintenance and upgrade project on Unit 3.

“Upgrades and regular maintenance are typically based on the unit’s operating hours. This was the second quadruple major outage and first major performance upgrade on Unit 3 since it came online in 2001,” Jay Butters, plant manager and assistant vice president of power supply at KUA told POWER. “The unit is designed for 30 years of service; however, we regularly maintain our power plants and expect many more years of service from the unit.”

“The Unit 3 upgrade was done in partnership with General Electric through a service agreement,” Ken Rutter, COO of FMPA, told POWER. “We have had a longstanding relationship with GE, and their knowledge and expertise has been a big part of the unit’s record-setting performance over time.”

The upgrades were a major undertaking, so collaboration between FMPA, KUA, and GE was important. “There were 150 workers onsite at the height of the project,” Bill Mangan, operations and maintenance manager at Cane Island Power Park, told POWER. “Most of the project team were from GE’s skilled labor workforce, so they were already familiar with the equipment and work that was needed on the unit.”

The Unit 3 maintenance outage included work around both the gas and steam turbines. The gas turbine received a new turbine rotor, compressor blading, and hot gas path components, including combustion equipment, turbine blades, shrouds, and buckets. The steam turbine was completely disassembled to replace bearings and install new components. The team also replaced and refurbished the stationary components on the steam turbine generator and completely refurbished the rotating field (Figure 1).

1. Performing work on Cane Island Unit 3’s steam turbine generator stator. Courtesy: KUA

Early, Yet Flexible, Planning

Planning for the Unit 3 upgrades began immediately following the last major outage on the unit in 2012. That allowed plenty of time to prepare, including buying supplies and equipment well in advance. The foresight allowed FMPA and KUA to avoid some of the supply chain issues that other utilities are facing today. However, the team didn’t sidestep all delivery issues.

“The team did a remarkable job handling the challenges,” said Butters. “When the new gas turbine was installed, we ran the unit in simple cycle operation until the steam turbine and generator were available. This enabled us to generate some of the power that was being purchased on the open market, due to the outage,” he said.

“Unit 3 is a workhorse in FMPA’s fleet, so it was important for us to complete the maintenance and upgrades as soon as possible while operating our other units as normal,” Rutter explained.

“Our team created an outage excellence procedure to conduct critical path work first and to maintain efficiency,” said Mangan. “There were multiple aspects of the project happening at the same time, so it took a lot of coordination and communication to ensure work being done met expectations.”

“By working with GE, we were able to complete the upgrades and fully bring the unit back online before the peak summer months. This was particularly important because of the record-high temperatures in June,” Rutter said. “Since coming back online, Unit 3 has operated continuously and increased its efficiency by nearly 2%. We expect the unit to continue running until its next planned outage in late November.”

In addition to increasing efficiency, the upgrades to the gas and steam turbines also increased Unit 3’s output by 12 MW. FMPA and KUA estimate that this will enable the facility to power an additional 8,400 homes, which is important in Central Florida, where the population is surging. Another upgrade the group is planning includes Unit 3’s overfiring operation during peak demand times. The upgraded software will increase the unit’s output when overfiring, allowing it to power even more homes.

Focus on Safety and Equipment Preservation

Butters noted that Cane Island has a great safety record. “We are proud to report there were no injuries during the project,” he said. “Every person working at the plant goes through a safety briefing about work protocols, what to do in case of an emergency, and more. Subcontractors also must wear a permit holder with instructions to help them understand their surroundings and the lockout process. And before each outage, we send our safety procedures to contractors and subcontractors, so they know what to expect when they arrive on site.”

In the hot, humid, swampy environment around Cane Island, rust can be a problem. As part of the Unit 3 project, the team decided to try a film-forming ammonia coating, which was new to them. The product—designed to prevent corrosion—was applied to all exposed steel during maintenance. “This had great success,” Mangan said. Upgrades to Cane Island Units 2 and 4 are planned for later this year, and FMPA will also upgrade Treasure Coast Energy Center Unit 1 in Fort Pierce, Florida. “We plan to use the film-forming ammonia during the upgrades on all units,” Mangan said.

Upgrades to Unit 3 began in Fall 2021. The gas turbine was available in early January 2022. The unit was brought back online for full commercial operation in Spring 2022.

“It was challenging to perform a major overhaul of Unit 3, while keeping our other baseload units operating as normal. Unit 3 is one of three baseload power plants that provides affordable, reliable, and clean power to 24 Florida cities, so the team had to keep the power flowing to our customers. Completing these upgrades and increasing output on Unit 3 will enable us to do that well into the future,” said Rutter.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor

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