FPL plans to shutter St. Johns River coal plant, modernize older gas facility

Dive Brief:

  • Florida Power & Light this week announced it would mothball the St. Johns River Power Park, a coal facility the utility jointly owns with the City of Jacksonville's municipally-owned provider, and the third facility it is phasing out in a 2-year span. 
  • FPL said the closure would save customers an estimated $183 million and would prevent more than 5.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.
  • The NextEra Energy subsidiary is also planning to shutter an older gas-fired plant, replacing it with a more modern facility. The 1,200 MW Dania Beach Clean Energy Center could begin serving FPL customers by mid-2022.

Dive Insight:

FPL continues a trend of shuttering uneconomic coal plants and investing in cleaner energy resources, mostly natural gas, to replace lost generation. 

The St. Johns River plant, located in Jacksonville, is one of FPL's highest-cost resources and the utility wants to expedite its closure. The company requested the Public Service Commission to review the proposal and make its decision by December, "so that SJRPP can be closed down at the end of the year and the projected customer benefits can be realized sooner."

The 1,300 MW plant was constructed in the early 1980s and is no longer economical to operate, according to FPL. At the time it was constructed, the utility was looking for a cheaper alternative to oilwhich fueled most of FPL plants at the time.

FPL owns 20% of the facility, though it has an additional long-term agreement with Jacksonville's municipal utility that allows for the partners to share power output and operating expenses equally. FPL says its proposal will help modernize its generation fleet, cut emissions and generate millions in customer savings, but the announcement is short on renewable news.

The utility said it is "continuing to advance clean energy sources," and already operates 335 MW of solar, but it appears its transition from the fossil-fuel resource is fueled in part by constructing a third major natural gas pipeline. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved plans in February 2016 for a $550 million project that will connect two existing systems in the central region of Florida, in addition to a proposed interstate line. 

FPL also said it is continuing to make progress on previously-announced solar projects and expects eight new plants with 600 MW of capacity will be online in less than a year. The company has plans to install almost 2,100 MW of universal solar through 2023.

FPL also plans to retire its Lauderdale natural gas facility in Dania Beach. The gas-fired plant was last updated nearly 25 years ago, and  operates with some components dating back to the 1950s. The new facility would generate approximately $400 million in net cost savings for FPL customers, according to the utility.

"Our strategy of phasing out older power-generating units and investing in new, high-efficiency clean energy centers continues to save customers millions of dollars on fuel costs and reduce air emissions" Silagy said.

In the last two years, FPL has bought out existing contracts with two independently owned coal-fired power plants, with plans to shut them down. The Cedar Bay plant in Jacksonville ceased operations at the end of 2016, with the Indiantown Co-generation plant in Martin County on track to close by the end of 2019.

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Filed Under: Generation
Top image credit: Flickr; Jan Tik