At the end of last week, Seminole Electric Cooperative – the third largest power generator in Florida – announced that it was canceling a 750 MW coal fired power plant project that it had been developing near Palatka, Florida. The cooperative filed papers with state regulators announcing the cancellation. The stated reasons included uncertainties regarding long term regulations and prices for pollution emissions.
The cooperative also mentioned that it was considering other alternative power sources including natural gas, nuclear power and power purchases from other generators.
In a follow-up article, St. Petersburg Times columnist Robert Trigaux asked the thought provoking question “Did we just wave goodbye to the last new Florida coal plant”. However, he apparently did not even read his own paper’s article about the announcement since he did not mention that Seminole Electric had included nuclear power as one of its future generation options.
Being the nudge that I am, I wrote him a letter to remind him that there are few options for reliable, affordable power – especially in Florida. If coal gets removed from the list because it is too dirty or has too many uncertainties regarding future costs, the choices get narrowed considerably and have to include nuclear energy. Here is a copy of my letter:
I read your recent article titled “Did we just wave goodbye to last new Florida coal plant” dated December 22, 2009. In your list of alternative power supplies that Seminole Electric may be considering instead of coal, you failed to mention that the company is considering a nuclear option.
A staff article that your own paper published on December 18, 2009 included the following statement “The cooperative said its options range from using natural gas or nuclear power to purchasing electricity from other power producers.”
There is little to no gas “under our feet” if your feet happen to be in Florida. All the gas in my native state comes from elsewhere through long pipelines that are difficult to site. They carry gas that is vulnerable to interruption and price fluctuations. Coal plant pollution is not a new concern; it was a problem to operate coal plants in the Sunshine State even in the 1970s and 1980s when my dad was building huge transmission lines to enable FPL to move coal by wire from Georgia.
Solar is a toy that can never produce reliable power – though innumerate people at Earthjustice have made the following silly statement – “Instead of sticking with dirty coal, Seminole Electric is considering building a 1.5 mega-watt solar energy project in southwest Florida.” The coal plant that the cooperative was considering had a reliable capacity of about 750 MW; it cannot be replaced by even a large number of 1.5 MW solar projects that generate that much electricity ONLY when the sun is shining brightly from directly overhead. The solar trend lines that you mention may show reductions in panel costs, but they do not imply a reduction in the price of reliable power in the absence of enormous subsidies.
Your readers deserve to understand the real options. If you want reliable, clean, affordable power in Florida, you cannot ignore the nuclear alternative. Progress Energy and FPL have used solid engineering and economic analysis to reach that conclusion; apparently Seminole Electric is starting to use similar analysis to determine its choices for future generation sources.
Publisher, Atomic Insights