TAMPA, January 21, 2021
As part of the utility’s strategy to become cleaner and greener, Tampa Electric has achieved new sustainability milestones, including: • It has completed enough solar energy to power 100,000 homes, with plans to power another 100,000 by 2023. • It plans to retire Big Bend Unit 3 in 2023, which is nearly two decades early.
“These significant milestones are improving the land, water and air for all Tampa Electric customers,” said Nancy Tower, president and chief executive officer of Tampa Electric. “We are saving our customers money, while becoming cleaner and greener in measurable ways.”
The 60-megawatt (MW) Durrance Solar project began operating in Polk County on Jan. 1. With Durrance, the utility has completed its first 10 utility-scale photovoltaic solar projects, making Tampa Electric the Florida utility with the most solar power per customer. The utility has already begun construction on the next wave of 600 MW of solar, with four projects totaling 225 MW scheduled to be complete by year’s end. When complete, Tampa Electric will have enough solar energy to power 200,000 homes – with carbon reduction the equivalent of removing 1 million cars from the roads.
In addition, thanks to those solar projects, Tampa Electric has saved 2 billion gallons of water that had previously irrigated agriculture or mining operations, which were the land’s previous occupants. Long-term, as the shift from power generation to solar continues, these investments will help insulate customers from fuel-price volatility.
Big Bend’s Unit 3 will retire in April 2023, which is 18 years early. It began operating as a coal unit in 1976; natural gas was added as a secondary fuel several years ago. The company accelerated its retirement to save customers money. Keeping the unit operating after 2023 would have required additional capital-intensive improvements.
This is the second Big Bend unit that is retiring: Unit 2 will retire in November 2021 as part of the $850 million Big Bend Modernization project. When complete in 2023, the project will have state-of-the-art, highly efficient, combined-cycle natural gas units, capable of producing 1,090 megawatts of electricity. Modernizing power plants improves fuel generation efficiency, which lowers fuel costs for customers and lowers emissions.
Manatees in the Big Bend discharge canal will not be affected by these retirements; the remaining Big Bend units will still produce plenty of warm water to provide them refuge from the cold.
These milestones are part of the company’s strategy to reduce its carbon footprint, which started in 1999 with the repowering of the former coal-fired Gannon Station to natural gas, and most recently included the modernization of Big Bend Unit 1. This is consistent with Tampa Electric’s strategic focus of transitioning power generation to less carbon intensity while remaining affordable for our customers.
Tampa Electric, one of Florida’s largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 780,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
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