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Be on the lookout for a giant plume of steam in south Hillsborough

The 100-foot-tall vapor clouds may be seen across the bay as Tampa Electric Co. cleans its Big Bend Station.
Smoke and steam rise out of the stacks at Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Station in Apollo Beach in 2005. As part of a plan to modernize its facilites, TECO this month will start cleaning pipes at its facility as it prepares to open a new energy production unit that's not reliant on coal. The process will result in a 100-foot-tall plume of steam above its facility throughout July.
Smoke and steam rise out of the stacks at Tampa Electric Company's Big Bend Station in Apollo Beach in 2005. As part of a plan to modernize its facilites, TECO this month will start cleaning pipes at its facility as it prepares to open a new energy production unit that's not reliant on coal. The process will result in a 100-foot-tall plume of steam above its facility throughout July. [ O'ROURKE, SKIP | St. Petersburg Times ]
Published Jul. 4

If you see what looks like giant clouds of smoke rising in the sky from south Hillsborough County this month, don’t panic.

The 100-foot plume is actually steam coming from Tampa Electric Co.’s Big Bend Station power plant as it nears the end of a years-long process to modernize its facilities.

The project kicked off in 2019 and is designed to upgrade the plant’s energy production technology, replacing some coal-powered equipment with a process that uses gas and steam to produce more energy. The new production unit should be up and running by the end of this year.

First, though, the plant must undergo a lengthy steam-cleaning of some of its pipes, which will yield a near-continuous plume of water vapor. The steam will not be coming from TECO’s main towers. The process will start this week, a TECO spokesperson, and will last throughout July.

TECO plans to use noise abatement equipment to minimize the sound of the steam on nearby residents. The company asks residents not to be alarmed and call emergency services during the process.

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