Building Coal Plants in Florida Proves Difficult
Author: Timothy Gardner
The utilities had hoped to build a US$2 billion, 800-megawatt plant called the Taylor Energy Center, but suspended the permitting process this week.
"This decision allows us time to assess how we are going to meet our customer's electric needs in light of the growing concern about greenhouse gas emissions," spokesman Mark McCain said in an interview.
Coal emits more greenhouse emissions than any other fuel. However, many utilities say they need to build new plants that burn plentiful domestic coal to diversify supply. Most US power stations built since the 1990s run on natural gas.
Companies are planning to build more than 150 coal-fired power plants across the United States, according to the National Technology Energy Laboratory. But nobody knows how many of those plants will actually be built.
Early this year in Texas, TXU Corp. canceled plans to build eight of 11 coal-fired plants after private equity firms agreed to acquire the Dallas based power company.
The Florida Public Service Commission last month denied a proposal by FPL Group Inc.'s Florida Power & Light Co. subsidiary to build a US$5.7 billion, 1,960 MW coal-fired power station in Glades County. The state utility regulator cited concerns about construction and future coal prices.
After that rejection, FPL warned the state might be putting all of its eggs in one basket by over relying on natural gas fired generation.
More than half of Florida's power comes from plants that burn natural gas; more than 20 percent comes from oil, less than 20 percent from coal and less than 10 percent from nuclear.
The ditching of the two coal plants brings Florida's plans for new coal-fired plants down to seven.
Gov. Charlie Crist has campaigned recently against conventional coal-fired power plants in the state and is hosting a climate summit on July 12-13 featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, a fellow Republican who has set tough limits on greenhouse gases.
During the conference, Gov. Crist is expected to announce some specific climate action plans for Florida, a spokeswoman for the governor said, noting she could not be more specific since the governor wanted to make the announcements at the conference.
McCain said he believed Crist was more enthusiastic about coal-fired power plants that gasify coal after signing legislation this year that would allow TECO Energy Inc.'s Tampa Electric Co. to start billing customers in advance of building an integrated gasification combined-cycle coal plant.
IGCC technology can enable plants to more cheaply capture carbon dioxide emissions for burial underground than from conventional coal plants.