Tampa Electric Company wants to convert its coal-fired power plant in Apollo Beach to a plant powered by methane gas instead, at the cost of about a billion dollars.
But consumer advocates and environmentalists say that switching to solar power instead would be much cheaper in the long run and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
There’s a chance for the public to weigh in on Monday.
On Friday, WMNF’s Seán Kinane spoke with Kent Bailey, chair of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club and Gonzalo Valdez, the Beyond Coal organizer for the Sierra Club.
The public hearing is 5:00 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Riverview Hilton.
An administrative law judge will rule on the issue in May.
In July, Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet will make the final decision.
In January, both Tampa Electric and members of the public spoke about the issue at a Hillsborough County Commission meeting. At that meeting, TECO senior vice president Tom Hernandez said the company will add more solar power generation. But the company still needs to convert the Big Bend plant to natural gas, in part because solar doesn’t deliver energy when it’s needed most.
“The affordability and the availability of these technologies are at the point where we’re now deploying. Three years ago if you would have told me that Tampa Electric would invest $900 million over a three-and-a-half year period to put in 600 Megawatts of solar, I would have said, ‘No way.’ We’re doing it.
“We worked with the Public Service Commission. We have the ability to recover costs. We did it in a way that we’re minimizing the impact to our customers. And are we getting cleaner and greener? Absolutely.
“And by a fate of the Trump administration – that’s all I’ll say – but the tax reform that was implemented. We have put 400 Megawatts of solar and displaced significant natural gas and coal. And your rates went down. So it’s a combination of the cost components associated with burning fossil plant going down – tax reform helping to make that go down – offsetting, more than offsetting the capital costs to put the 400 Megawatts of solar.
“I will tell you if we were not doing the Big Bend [Power Station] modernization project we could not add more solar to our system. There’s a point where you start bumping up into operating constraints. And we could no longer maintain the grid stability or reliability of an asset that is inadvertent.”