APOLLO BEACH — Tampa Electric Co. will retire one of its coal-powered generators at Big Bend Power Station 18 years early, the power company announced this week. The “Unit 3″ generator will now be taken offline by April 2023.
“If we were to keep running that unit past 2023, it would have required additional capital,” spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs said. “It saves our customers money for us to retire it early.”
An early shutdown will save customers $270 million.
Tampa Electric originally had four coal-powered generators at the power plant. Unit 1 is currently being converted to an entirely natural gas generator as part of the utility’s “modernization” project, which costs $850 million. This will conclude in 2023.
In the same project, Unit 2 is being shut down entirely. That was the site of an accident that killed five workers, though Tampa Electric said at the time that was not the main reason for shutting that unit down. It is scheduled to be taken offline in November.
Unit 3 has used coal since 1976 and was later retro-fitted with some natural gas capability. The utility has no plans to retire Unit 4, its other coal-powered generator at the plant.
The generators’ retirement, Jacobs said, should not affect the manatees that gather in the warm waters of the plant’s discharge canal during the winter months, as the natural gas generator will still warm the waters.
The shortened timeline does not require regulatory approval.