TECO Announces $800-Million Investment in New Solar

Tampa Electric Co. (TECO) on Feb. 19 said it plans to invest about $800 million to add another 600 MW of solar power generation capacity by year-end 2023. TECO on Wednesday said the expansion will increase its solar portfolio to more than 1.25 GW of solar generation, or about 14% of its total generation mix.

“Our customers want a cleaner energy future for themselves, and their children,” said Nancy Tower, TECO’s president and CEO, in a statement. “We are committed to continue to lead Tampa Electric toward cleaner energy while ensuring our prices remain affordable for customers.”

A Gas-Heavy Portfolio

TECO, like many U.S. utilities, is increasing its use of renewable resources as it phases out coal-fired generation. The company, which serves customers in west-central Florida, said it has cut its coal use by 92% since 2000. About 84% of its electricity comes from natural gas.

TECO is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., an energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

“This is all part of our strategy to make Tampa Electric cleaner and greener,” said spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs. State regulators still need to review and approve the plan. TECO today has 520 MW of solar generation capacity in service.

One of the utility’s largest ongoing projects is the installation of gas-fired combined cycle technology at its Big Bend plant at Apollo Beach. The Big Bend Modernization project, which includes the conversion of Unit 1 and closure of Unit 2, is expected to be completed in 2023. The converted facility will have 1,090 MW of generation capacity.

Big Bend is the site of another major TECO project from the past, a multi-unit selective catalytic reduction installation a decade ago on all four coal-fired units at the plant.

Solar at Several Locations

The new solar farms will be sited at several locations in the Tampa Bay area, according to Jacobs. Locations include sites on 1,200 acres that straddle Hillsborough and Polk counties, along with property in Pasco County near Dade City, and property in Polk County.

“Over the life of these solar plants, this expansion will be cheaper for customers than if we kept our fleet [as is],” Jacobs said.

Solar power is rapidly expanding in Florida. Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, is in the midst of a “30-by-30” plan to install 30 million solar panels by 2030. The plan includes building 20 solar plants with total generation capacity of about 1.5 GW this year and next.

State lawmakers also are moving to support solar energy. A House committee on Feb. 18 approved language in a tax bill that would allow utilities to potentially save millions of dollars by delaying the date on which a utility would start paying taxes on solar energy projects.

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

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