Texas Storm Motivates FPL to Prepare for Extreme Weather | Texas News

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By HANNAH MORSE, Palm Beach Post

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) —

Among the most common natural disasters that threaten Florida, its people and its power grids are hurricanes, which are fed by warm waters during a season that spans spring, summer and fall.

But Florida isn’t immune to the effects of the harsh cold, as evidenced as recently as January, when a crop-damaging frost hit. Additionally, through the purchase of Gulf Power Co., Florida Power & Light Co. added to its service territory in 2019 most of the Panhandle, an area that freezes more often and even sees snow.

Depending on their severity, both can lead to power outages for different reasons, whether it’s downed power lines due to high winds or an overloaded grid as residents seek warmth.

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Extreme cold is rare in most of Florida, but Texas storm serves as warning

While extreme cold may be less common than hurricanes in the Sunshine State, last year’s deadly Texas winter storm that left millions without power and exposed them to record-breaking temperatures got FPL to think hard. its preparation for a similar threat in its area of ​​coverage.

To do this, the Juno Beach-based utility intends to keep some power plants in rotation, rather than slated for retirement, and nearly double the amount of its future battery storage capacity.

“We think it’s reasonable to expect this to happen in the future, and we need to prepare for it,” FPL spokesman Chris McGrath said. “We learn from every storm.”

Five natural gas-powered generator sets in Manatee County and the Panhandle, capable of generating 1,790 megawatt hours of power, will be put into “emergency standby mode,” McGrath said, when needed to respond to high demand for electricity.

The two units in Manatee County were set to retire at the end of 2021, after the company unveiled its 409-megawatt capacity solar-powered battery in Parrish, and the other three units in Bay and Escambia would go offline over the next six years.

FPL cold weather plan outlined in state utility regulators filing

FPL outlined those plans in a 10-year outlook submitted annually to the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned electric and gas utilities. While the climate and grid system in Texas differs from Florida, the scenario is not one we want to see repeated.

After the February 2021 storm in Texas lasted several days and was linked to the deaths of 246 people, FPL said in its nearly 600-page document that it “could not be sure of its ability to serve all its customers in the event of an extreme winter weather event.

The utility noted that electricity demand in the winter is generally lower than in the summer, and that extreme winter weather in Florida can be “infrequent,” but it cited two instances in its history where a high demand in response to freezing temperatures left customers without power. . Many succumbed to the effects of hypothermia, while others died from reliance on electrical medical devices.

The first example shown was a freeze around Christmas in 1989. The holiday weekend was greeted by arctic air, bringing temperatures in the region down to 20 degrees. FPL faced an overloaded system, with more than one million customers across Florida affected by power outages and 300,000 without power for several hours.

Nearly two decades later, thousands of people lost power when a long spell of cold weather hit South Florida. FPL peaked in electricity demand at 21,500 megawatt hours one day in January 2010, a record that remains today.

If FPL hadn’t factored extreme winter weather into this year’s 10-year outlook, the utility was poised to add 1,800 megawatts of battery storage to its fleet by 2031. Now, given of a potential weather threat to the grid, the utility wants to add 3,200 megawatts of battery storage.

How would the stalled Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation benefit the FPL?

The speed with which FPL is expanding its fleet of solar power plants could hinge on one bill: Build Back Better.

The infrastructure spending package passed by the House last year has yet to pass the Senate, with two Democratic senators ruling out the bill moving forward.

Still, FPL is considering the potential tax credits associated with new utility-owned renewables. The legislation increases the battery tax credit from 10% to 30% and allows utilities to receive a tax credit based on the number of megawatt hours generated by a new solar installation.

For the first time, the legislation offers a credit for hydrogen plants at $3 per kilogram of hydrogen produced. That could help FPL as the utility works on a “green” hydrogen pilot plant in Okeechobee that will go into service late next year.

By using solar energy – which is why the process is considered “green” – to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, the company believes it could replace natural gas as a fuel, further the FPL of fossil fuels.

Money saved through tax credits, McGrath said, is “passed directly to customers.”

Without knowing what the future holds for this legislation, FPL plans by 2031 to add enough solar installations to produce 9,462 megawatt hours of energy. New power generation facilities, including solar power, are paid for by customers through their monthly bills.

But if these renewable energy tax credits were passed, the utility could more than double that figure.

“Building back better would allow us to accelerate future construction in earlier years to take advantage of cost savings,” McGrath said.

Other highlights of FPL’s 10-year outlook:

The utility will divest its interests in four coal-fired generating units outside Florida, some of which were absorbed by the acquisition of Gulf Power. 76% ownership of a 630 megawatt unit in Georgia was removed in January, while 50% ownership of two units totaling 500 megawatts in Mississippi Power’s service territory will be removed by January 2024. Finally , 25% ownership of another 215-megawatt unit in Georgia will be retired by the end of 2028.

By 2031, FPL plans to obtain 38% of its energy from zero-emission sources.

FPL will officially connect its system to Gulf Power by mid-2022 by installing a 161 kilovolt transmission line.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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