Following through on its long-term objective of replacing substantial oil-fired generation with natural gas combined cycle power, Florida Power & Light outlined a new project to meet customer growth and increased use of electricity by expanding at its existing power plant sites in Martin and Manatee counties. The proposal would add 1,900 MW of new, cleaner-burning natural gas-fired combined-cycle generation by mid-2005 and follows similar actions at its Fort Myers and Sanford power facilities in 2000 and 2001.

The new proposal would allow FPL to serve more than 400,000 new customers by the middle of the decade and maintain a 20% reserve margin. FPL’s expansion calls for adding 1,100 MW of combined-cycle generation at its 9,500-acre Manatee plant site east of Bradenton on Florida’s west coast and converting two existing natural gas combustion turbines along with two new turbines into more efficient combined-cycle generation providing an additional 800 MW at its 11,300-acre Martin site near Indiantown.

These two projects would increase the company’s capability to provide electricity to customers by 10%. The decision to build these units is the result of the utility’s comprehensive evaluation of power purchase proposals from other companies and FPL-formulated alternatives. The evaluation showed that expansion at existing FPL sites was the most cost-effective option and represented the best balance of economic and environmental considerations, the company said. FPL’s capacity expansion evaluation was designed to assure that sufficient, reliable generation would be in place by mid-decade.

FPL President Paul Evanson also announced an additional opportunity for the existing Manatee generating units. “Thanks to the arrival of a new natural gas pipeline on Florida’s west coast [Gulfstream], we also plan to use natural gas in combination with oil at our existing Manatee generating units,” Evanson said. “Adding natural gas at FPL’s last remaining oil-fired generating units helps maintain the reliability of FPL’s system by supporting our fuel diversity strategy. At the same time, burning gas at these units will improve their environmental performance.”

So far, FPL has added 860 MW at Fort Myers, 1,150 MW at Sanford and will add another 1,900 MW at the Martin and Manatee locations. That leaves another 2,390 MW to be built in the latter half of the decade. FPL plans to add a total of 6,300 MW of new, mainly gas-fired power generation by 2010. A spokeswoman said other than the possibility of adding more capacity at Manatee, additional sites for the new generation still have not been chosen.

In the next few weeks, FPL will take its generation expansion proposals to the Florida Public Service Commission for a “need” determination. At that time, the company will review its decision-making process and customer load growth forecast with the commission. FPL also will seek government and agency approvals for the plant expansions by filing site certification applications with Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection.

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