- The parent company of Tampa Electric will propose retrofitting the 1,700 MW coal-fired Big Bend power station to burn natural gas, part of the utility's efforts to phase out coal, reports The Tampa Bay Times.
- Engineering analysis and study of the possible conversion have been underway for years; officials say the process could take a decade to complete and cost $1 billion.
- There have been several incidents at the Big Bend plant, including the deaths last year of five workers who were trying to clean a cooling tank.
At a weekly meeting focused on politics, a Tampa Electric official told locals that the possible conversion of Big Bend has been under consideration for years, and could take a decade to complete. The official said some fossil fuels are still necessary on the system as renewables continue to be integrated.
"The fact is we need the Big Bend power plant, and we need some kind of fossil fuel generation, at least for a period of time until other technologies advance enough so we don’t have to depend on fossil fuels," TECO Energy COO Rob Bennett reportedly told the small group.
Tampa Bay Business Journal reports there are other safety investigations ongoing at the plant, including one focused on an October accident that injured two workers.
Big Bend has four coal-fired units, but they are aging and use outdated technologies. The first unit began service in 1970, the second and third in 1973 and 1976. The most modern unit was added in 1985. In 2009, a gas- and fuel oil-fired peaking unit was installed to help meet peak demand.
Tampa Electric is also looking to renewable energy. The utility owns seven community-sited systems and completed construction on a 2 MW installation at Tampa International Airport at the end of 2015 and a 23 MW installation in early 2017.