Florida Power & Light announced April 18 the successful completion of a five-year, multibillion-dollar investment to upgrade its Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear plants, adding more than 500 MW of new clean capacity.
On April 17, Turkey Point Unit 4, the final unit to undergo an upgrade as part of the project, was connected to Florida’s electrical grid. The upgrades of Turkey Point Unit 3, located in Miami-Dade County, and St. Lucie Units 1 and 2, located in St. Lucie County, were completed in 2012.
“With consistently low fuel costs, zero emissions and the ability to operate around the clock, nuclear power is a critical component of our state’s energy mix today and tomorrow,” said FPL President Eric Silagy. “By increasing the amount of power that our nuclear plants can generate, this investment added the equivalent of a new, medium-sized power plant to Florida’s generation fleet, without having to build one.”
These extended power uprates are massive, highly-complex engineering projects. FPL surpassed the initial projection of 399 MW for the entire investment at the end of 2012, and the project is estimated to deliver nearly 30% more capacity than originally projected.
For FPL’s customers, the uprate investment is expected to deliver a variety of benefits over the course of its operating lifetime, including:
- Fuel Savings: The added capacity is expected to save customers billions of dollars on fossil fuel costs, with more than$100m in savings in the first year of operation alone;
- Fewer Emissions: By reducing fossil fuel usage, the project avoids 33 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions, which is the equivalent of removing 5 million cars from the road.
Investments in efficient power generation such as nuclear are one of the reasons why FPL’s typical residential customer bills are the lowest of the state’s 55 electric utilities and 26% below the national average, the utility noted. In addition, because the vast majority of the electricity that Floridians use comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels, nuclear power provides valuable energy diversity.
Since the early 1970s, two nuclear units at FPL’s Turkey Point plant in Miami-Dade County have been providing safe, reliable power for FPL customers. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, FPL added two more nuclear units in St. Lucie County.
In 2007, FPL received a need determination from the Florida Public Service Commission to implement extended power uprates at all four nuclear units. FPL’s uprate investment was made possible by Florida’s nuclear cost recovery framework. The framework keeps long-term costs down for customers through a pay-as-you-go process that pays off certain development and interest costs before the plant is complete, preventing these costs from compounding additional interest. Although the so-called “advanced” cost recovery system only accounts for a small portion of a utility’s investment, it produces hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for customers over time.
FPL is the largest rate-regulated electric utility in Florida and serves the third-largest number of customers of any electric utility in the United States. It is a subsidiary of Juno Beach, Fla.-based NextEra Energy (NYSE: NEE).