Florida tools to close natural gas plants, build massive solar powered battery

  Rows of solar panels under a cloudy sky.
Magnify / Solar Panels in Arcadia, Florida.

Brooks Kraft LLC / Corbis via Getty Images

On Thursday, Florida Power and Light (FPL) announced that it would withdraw two natural gas plants and replace these plants with what is likely to be the world's largest solar powered battery bank when it is finished in 2021[ads1].

FPL, a subsidiary of NextEra Energy, serves about 10 million customers in Florida. The tool states that the plan, including extra efficiency upgrades and smaller battery systems throughout its service area, will save customers more than $ 100 million in aggregates through avoided fuel costs. The FPL also says that the battery and upgrade plan will help avoid 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

The plan requires the construction of a 409 megawatt (MW) / 900 megawatt-hour battery solution for what is called the FPL Manatee Energy Storage Center. For the context, the largest battery solution in the world was built by Tesla on a Hornsdale wind farm in South Australia; which has a capacity and power of 100 MW / 129 MWh.

The batteries will be charged by an existing solar facility in Manatee County, FPL says. Being able to store solar energy in batteries is a great advantage for the tool. Solar panels are periodic energy sources because they only produce power when the sun shines. Usually it happens in the morning and towards the middle of the day, when the power consumption tends to be low. If a tool can store excess power in a bank of batteries, it can distribute that power later in the afternoon when people come home from work and turn on their air conditioner and flow after power consumption.

FPL did not specify which company would give their batteries, how much it would pay for them, or whether they would be lithium-ion batteries or use another chemistry. Lithium-ion batteries are currently a favorite of interface chemical battery systems. Analyst company Bloomberg New Energy Finance wrote this week that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent since the first half of 2018.

The two natural gas plants that FPL will go on were built in the 1970s and have reached the end of the utility life. According to NextEra's 2016 Annual Report (PDF), FPL generated 70 percent of its natural gas electricity and four percent from coal. However, PFL has been on course to change it over the past two years, however. The company says it has spent two decades on a modernization program to replace its older oil burners with more efficient natural gas plants. Now that natural gas becomes a worst offender in US carbon emissions sources, older natural gas plants are being replaced by cleaner sources.

"The FPL also remains ready to eliminate its only remaining coal plant in Florida by the end of this year," writes the newsletter. "The company also knocks down two coal plants in Jacksonville in 2016 and 2018, respectively, which collectively impede nearly 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions."

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