INDIANTOWN — Wednesday, June 16, brought the end of an era. Florida Power & Light’s last standing coal-powered energy plant succumbed to implosion. The power plant’s 495-foot chimney had towered over Warfield Boulevard - S.R. 710 since 1995, just over 25 years. The icon tumbled to the ground in less than 25 seconds after controlled explosives were detonated.
A boom and a rumble resembling thunder, alerted spectators of the impending collapse. The chimney leaned to one side then crumpled, a tired relic of the past.
Eric Silagy, FPL president and CEO, reflected on FPL’s rigorous journey to advance clean energy in Florida and “get coal out of our system.” He stressed that this was “a march” that had “taken decades.”
“As technology has advanced, our thinking has advanced, our knowledge of what impacts environmental and economics have advanced, we come to the conclusion we could do this better,” said Silagy. “Rather than be afraid of change, we are going to embrace this.”
He explained FPL’s modernization of some power plants to create cleaner energy. The plants constructed in the ‘60s, even the ‘90s like Indiantown’s generating plant, were built with “cutting-edge technology,” with “the best technology for the times.” However, as technology moved away from burning oil and pulverized coal to cleaner, more efficient sources, FPL leadership decided to invest in cleaner, more affordable and reliable energy for future generations.
“We had a vision that we could take new technology, combined-cycle fired natural gas technology – and save customers a lot of money because it burns less fuel and creates less emissions.”
Silagy continued that as little as 20 years ago, FPL imported and burnt 40 million barrels of oil per year, gaining them infamy as America’s highest oil-consuming electric utility. He likened the modernization of the power plants to an electrical version of a hybrid automobile. They’re fuel-efficient and a lot more cost-effective to operate. According to the CEO, modernization brought about a 99% reduction in oil consumption, earning FPL the distinction of “burning almost none.”
“We are now one of the cleanest electric utilities in America because we’ve been doing this for 20 years,” Silagy said.
FPL continues expansion and investment in cleaner-greener energy sources and shows no signs of letting up.
“The next step is solar,” the president said. “We have embarked on the largest solar energy build in America by far. We’ve announced 30 million panels by 2030 installed in Florida, and I’m proud to tell you today, we’re ahead of schedule.”
The CEO stressed that doing the right thing for the sake of future generations wasn’t easy, but it was doable.
He said, “Being clean is smart business - being clean and affordable and being reliable, you can do it. We’ve proven it.”
After advocating other innovative technology opportunities, Silagy confirmed the ushering in a new era: Florida’s newest solar energy center will replace the coal-powered generating plant. A 75-megawatt, 500-acre, 300,000 solar panel facility will begin construction with a $100 million investment. According to media relations spokesperson Alyssa Ten Eyck, the permit process will begin soon.
Silagy said, “We have embraced this technology. We’re going to continue to advance this technology so we can be sure that Florida’s economy is humming.”
FPL received approval for the “30 by 30” program in March 2020. According to the website, with 12 million solar panels in 41 large energy centers, FPL’s 2030 initiative is 40% complete and will produce “enough energy to power 2 million homes” when it’s finished.
In its prime, the 330-megawatt coal-powered facility produced enough electricity for 330,000 homes. In addition, it contributed more than $10 million per year to the local economy through payroll, taxes and purchases, according to National Energy and Gas Transmission.