Make us your home page
Instagram

Did we just wave goodbye to last new Florida coal plant?

The Big Bend power plant emits plumes of smoke and steam. TECO Energy-owned Tampa Electric still generates 55 percent of its electricity using coal.

SKIP O’ROURKE | Times (2002)

The Big Bend power plant emits plumes of smoke and steam. TECO Energy-owned Tampa Electric still generates 55 percent of its electricity using coal.

It slipped by as a mere footnote last week. But the decision by Tampa's Seminole Electric Cooperative to cancel plans to build a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity might represent the death knell of coal plants in Florida.

Possibly ever.

"The Florida Public Service Commission is extraordinarily unlikely to approve another coal plant in Florida," says David Guest, an attorney in Tallahassee with Earthjustice, which has fought against the use of coal and its heavy output of carbon dioxide to produce electricity. "The PSC realizes coal is not a good fuel for the future."

There are still 15 existing plants powered by coal in the state. But Seminole Electric's plant in Palatka was the last in a series of five coal-fired plant proposals — ranging from a whopper sought by Florida Power & Light to another by the Orlando Utilities Commission — in the state to be canceled.

There are many reasons:

UNCERTAINTY: Seminole Electric said it dropped its coal plans because regulatory changes afoot suggest a growing backlash against coal as too polluting, even with the latest smokestack technology. Seminole Electric generates the third-largest amount of electricity in Florida behind Florida Power & Light and Progress Energy Florida.

IMPROVED PROSPECTS FOR NATURAL GAS: It's cleaner than coal, cheaper than oil and a 90-year supply is under our feet. But it wasn't always so alluring. Natural gas supplies and prices used to swing wildly, making a gas-fired plant extremely expensive at times to operate. However, new finds of natural gas combined with technology that more efficiently extracts the gas have changed experts' minds. Now they believe the huge inventory of natural gas will ease price swings and supply worries.

WEAKER DEMAND FOR ELECTRICITY: Forecasters once warned Florida needed more electricity generation to handle rising demand and a swelling population. Then the recession hit the state, and our population actually decreased as more residents migrated elsewhere. With electricity demand down, high-pollution coal plants look even less attractive.

RISING ROLE OF SOLAR POWER AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGIES: Solar power projects are popping up routinely around the state. They are neither big enough nor cost-efficient enough yet to replace coal, gas, oil or nuclear electricity plants, but the trend line is clear. Right behind solar are biomass plants, wind farms and other alternative ways to produce electricity. Conservation also helps reduce the demand for future electric plants.

Progress Energy Florida in St. Petersburg maintains that coal will remain an important part of its broad mix of fuels used to generate electricity. Now, 37 percent of the electricity generated by the utility comes from coal.

Still, Progress Energy Florida plans to shut down its two oldest coal plants — from the 1960s — in Citrus County when a proposed nuclear power plant in Levy County begins operating shortly before 2020.

In Tampa, TECO Energy-owned Tampa Electric still generates 55 percent of its electricity using coal (45 percent is natural gas). That still sounds like a lot but consider this: A few decades ago, 98 percent of the utility's electricity came from coal.

Contact Robert Trigaux at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Did we just wave goodbye to last new Florida coal plant? 12/21/09 [Last modified: Monday, December 21, 2009 9:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Despite Hurricane Irma, Hillsborough remains on pace to unlock hotel tax that could pay for Rays ballpark

    Tourism

    TAMPA — Despite the threat of a catastrophic storm, it was business as usual at many Hillsborough County hotels in the days before Hurricane Irma bore down on the Tampa Bay region.

    The Grand Hyatt near TIA closed during Hurricane Irma, but many other Hillsborough hotels were open and saw an influx.
  2. New Graham-Cassidy health care plan stumbles under opposition from governors

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — The suddenly resurgent Republican effort to undo the Affordable Care Act was dealt a blow on Tuesday when a bipartisan group of governors came out against a proposal gaining steam in the Senate.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined by, from left, Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., speaks to reporters as he pushes a last-ditch effort to uproot former President Barack Obama's health care law, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. To win, 50 of the 52 GOP senators must back it -- a margin they failed to reach when the chamber rejected the effort in July. [/J. Scott Applewhite | Associated Press]
  3. Early estimates peg Hurricane Irma damage at as much as $65B

    Banking

    The damage totals from Hurricane Irma are still being tallied, but early numbers are in: As of Tuesday, the storm is estimated to have caused between $42.5 billion and $65 billion of damage. That's according to a Tuesday release by Irvine, Calif.-based analytics company CoreLogic.

    Hurricane Irma is estimated to have caused up to $65 billion in damage, said analytics company CoreLogic. Pictured is 
Hermilo Munoz Castillo as wades down a flooded street to check on his home in southern Collier County, Fla. after Hurricane Irma passed. | [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project

    Business

    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  5. One of St. Petersburg's newest condo projects is sold out

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. Records show that a 2-bedroom, 2-bath unit sold Friday for $620,000 in an all-cash deal. Two other units — a 3-bedroom, 2-bath penthouse and a …

     Reflecting the continued demand for condos in downtown St. Petersburg, The Salvador, completed earlier this year at 199 Dali Blvd., has sold out. 
[Rendering courtesy of aalliiggnn LLC]