Nuclear panel: FPL’s plan to inject wastewater into ground is okay

FPL’s Turkey Point nuclear plant is shown here. The company is seeking to add two more nuclear reactors at the site.

In a blow to those opposed to Florida Power & Light’s license application to build two new nuclear reactors at its Turkey Point plant, a federal panel has agreed that the environmental impact of injecting treated, reclaimed wastewater into deep wells will be “small.”

The proposal calls for millions of gallons of wastewater containing at least four contaminants from the proposed Turkey Point 6 and 7 nuclear units’ cooling system to be injected into 13 deep wells into the Boulder Zone underlying the site overlooking Biscayne Bay south of Miami.

WHAT’S THE CONTROVERSY OVER FPL’S TURKEY POINT COOLING CANALS?

Intervenors have asserted that wastewater injected into the Boulder Zone, which begins at 3,030 feet below ground, could migrate upward to the Middle and Upper Floridan Aquifers. The  Floridan Aquifer System  supplies water to millions of people and is the major source of ground water supply in Florida.

FPL spokesman Peter Robbins said Tuesday, “We’re pleased, but it is one step in a long and detailed process. We continue to seek the federal licenses, and that is still our focus.”

NRC, ARMY CORPS GIVE ENVIRONMENTAL OKAY TO NEW REACTORS

The National Parks Conservation Association, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Miami-Dade residents Capt. Dan Kipnis and Mark Oncavage legally intervened in the federal licensing proceedings in 2010.

Caroline McLaughlin, Biscayne program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association said Tuesday, “From our perspective, the disappointing decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board doesn’t change the fact we still have serious concerns about the expansion proposal and its potential threats to Biscayne National Park and Everglades restoration.”

Sara Barczak, SACE’s high risk energy choice program director, said the  intervenors are evaluating whether to appeal the decision.

At a May  hearing in Homestead, the intervenors asserted that the project’s final environmental impact statement is deficient. The chemical concentrations of ethylbenzene, heptachlor, tetrachloroethylene and toluene in the wastewater may adversely impact the groundwater should they migrate from the Boulder Zone to the Upper Floridan Acquifer.

In a 42-page ruling issued July 10, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety and Licensing Board said that the NRC staff has demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that the environmental impacts of the proposed deep injection wells will be “small.”

The reasons? The wastewater is unlikely to migrate to the Upper Floridan Aquifer, and even if it did the concentration of each of the four contaminants would be below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s primary drinking water standard and would pose no known health risk, the board wrote.

FPL ORDERED TO FIX TURKEY POINT’S SALTY PLUME

McLaughlin said while the NRC panel looked at only one narrow issue involving the proposed new reactors, there is already widespread contamination into the Biscayne Aquifer from the two existing reactors’ cooling canals.

WILL FPL’S FIX TO TURKEY POINT CANALS WORK?

SACE’s expert Mark Quarles argued that FPL needs to conduct seismic-reflection surveys which would provide a better way to show if upward migration could occur. The method has been endorsed by the federal U.S. Geological Survey.

Since the new reactors are not likely to be built before 2031, there is plenty to time to do such studies, Barczak said.

FPL’s Robbins said the company expects the NRC to issue the licenses by the end of this year or early next year. However, FPL plans to pause the project once it receives the license while it continues to observe nuclear construction projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

 

Construction is underway on FPL’s next eight solar power plants

FPL’s solar facility in Manatee County is shown here.

 

Construction is underway on Florida Power & Light’s  next eight solar power plants, which in total will produce enough energy to power 120,000 homes, company officials said Wednesday.

The plants under construction are in Indian River, St. Lucie, Hendry, Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties. The total investment is about $900 million.

The new energy centers, which will comprise a total of more than 2.5 million solar panels and nearly 600 megawatts of capacity combined, are all on track to begin powering FPL customers by early 2018. The plants are called universal solar because through the power they send to the grid, they serve all customers.

“FPL is living proof that it’s possible to generate cleaner energy and deliver outstanding service while keeping customers’ electric bills among the lowest in the nation,” said Eric Silagy, FPL’s president and CEO. “We are proud to be advancing affordable clean energy infrastructure in Florida in close partnership with respected environmental advocates, community leaders and our customers. Together, we are bringing the benefits of solar energy to more Floridians faster and more affordably than ever before.”

Each of the eight new solar plants will be capable of generating 74.5 megawatts of zero-emissions energy when the sun is shining. Power from the plants will feed FPL’s energy grid.

FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said, “These solar energy centers will pay for themselves in fuel savings over the life of the plants. They will save customers approximately $40 million or more in fuel costs.”

Construction costs have decreased in the last few years as the panels are cheaper, and FPL has become better at building them, Daly said.

About 500 people are working on construction across the eight solar sites. FPL expects the construction workforce will grow to approximately 1,500 during peak activity this summer.

Daly said FPL is planting pollinator-friendly plants, wildflowers and natural grasses at the sites and is working with Audubon Florida to find  ways to make the sites even more environmentally friendly.

The solar plants need a lot of land, an average of 450 acres each, but  produce no emissions and don’t use any water.

The sites are in various stages of early construction, ranging from ground-clearing work to initial infrastructure installation. The first solar panels are being installed at the FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, which straddles Alachua and Putnam counties.

“FPL continues to transform the energy landscape of the state and nation, and we are honored that North Florida is playing an important role,” said Brian Bergen, vice president of economic development for the Putman County Chamber of Commerce. “These new solar power plants are about more than just affordable clean energy. They’re also delivering economic benefits right here, right now.”

In addition to a portion of the FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, the FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center is also being built in Putnam County.

The eight new FPL solar plants under construction and their expected completion dates are:

  • FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, Alachua and Putnam counties (by Dec. 31, 2017)
  • FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, Putnam County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
  • FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center, Indian River County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
  • FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County (by Dec. 31, 2017)
  • FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center, Brevard County (by March 1, 2018)
  • FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, Indian River County (by March 1, 2018)
  • FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, Hendry County (by March 1, 2018)
  • FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County (by March 1, 2018)

Florida ranks ninth in the nation for solar resource – the strength of the sun’s rays.  FPL projects that solar will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by the year 2020. By 2023, FPL estimates solar will reach 4 percent of its generation capacity.

Florida  ranks 13th in the nation for solar installed, with 725 megawatts,  according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.  This includes residential, commercial and utility-scale solar.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that in March for the first time, electricity generation from wind and solar, including utility-scale solar and small-scale systems, exceeded 10 percent of total electricity generation in the U.S. On 2016, wind and solar made up 7 percent of total U.S. electric generation.

In 2016, FPL became the first company to build solar cost-effectively in Florida, leveraging its purchasing power and sites with key advantages to complete three 74.5-megawatt universal solar power plants that are projected to result in net customer savings over their operational lifetimes.

From 2017 through 2023, FPL plans to add nearly 2,100 new megawatts of solar, including the approximately 600 megawatts currently under construction. Those plants will provide enough energy to power 420,000 homes, Daly said.

The Volusia County Commission recently approved a site in Samsula, the first for the additional 1,500 megawatts of solar.

FPL has been studying and operating solar in Florida for more than three decades. In 1984, FPL commissioned its first universal solar installation, a 10-kilowatt photovoltaic facility in Miami that helped the company’s employees gain experience with the then-emerging technology.

Over the years, FPL has continued to test and operate a wide variety of solar technologies. In 2009, the company built the 25-megawatt FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, which was the largest solar PV power plant ever built in the U.S. at the time.

FPL already operates more than 335 megawatts of solar generating capacity throughout the state:

  • FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County
  • FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Manatee Solar Energy Center, Manatee County
  • FPL Martin Next Generation Clean Energy Center (hybrid solar/natural gas), Martin County
  • FPL DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County
  • FPL Space Coast Next Generation Solar Energy Center, Brevard County
  • FPL Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway, Volusia County
  • Solar research installation at Florida International University, Miami-Dade County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Broward Young At Art Museum & Library, Broward County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society, Palm Beach County
  • FPL SolarNow array at the Palmetto Estuary Nature Preser

Black & Veatch, Blattner Energy to build eight new FPL solar plants

FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County is one of three solar power plants FPL completed in 2016. Provided.

Florida Power & Light Company said Wednesday that it has selected Blattner Energy and Black & Veatch – two of the nation’s premiere providers of renewable energy engineering, procurement and construction  services – to build its new universal solar projects.

Blattner Energy, headquartered in Avon, Minn.,  will be the contractor for four 74.5-megawatt solar power plants targeted for Dec. 31, 2017, completion: FPL Coral Farms Solar Energy Center, Putnam County; FPL Horizon Solar Energy Center, Alachua and Putnam Counties; FPL Indian River Solar Energy Center, Indian River County; and FPL Wildflower Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County.

Overland Park, Kan.-based Black & Veatch will be the  contractor for four 74.5  solar power plants targeted for March 1, 2018, completion: FPL Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center, Brevard County; FPL Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center, Indian River County; FPL Hammock Solar Energy Center, Hendry County; and FPL Loggerhead Solar Energy Center, St. Lucie County. Construction on these sites will be performed by Overland Contracting Inc., a Black & Veatch company.

Construction on the projects estimated to cost $900 million  is expected to begin this spring. At the height of construction, each of the sites is expected to employ about 200 people, for a total of approximately 1,600 jobs.

When completed, the new plants combined are expected to generate enough energy to power approximately 120,000 homes and prevent an average of more than 525,000 tons of carbon emissions annually. This level of greenhouse gas reduction is equivalent to the emissions from more than 100,000 vehicles or the carbon sequestered by more than 450,000 acres of forest, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

FPL already operates more than 335 megawatts of solar energy facilities.

 

Proposed bill would allow FPL to charge customers for fracking ventures

A gas fracking operation is shown here.

Last May  in a win for Florida Power & Light customers, the Florida Supreme Court reversed a Florida Public Service Commission decision allowing FPL to charge ratepayers for an oil and gas exploration and drilling venture in Oklahoma.

Now two bills introduced in the Florida House and Senate on Tuesday would change the law to allow FPL to charge customers for what the court called a speculative venture that lacked legislative authority.

 SB 1238,  sponsored by Sen.  Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, HB 1043, sponsored by Rep. Jason Brodeur, R-Sanford,  if approved, would allow utilities which have at least 65 percent natural gas-fueled generation to charge customers for its “prudent” investments in gas reserves and associated expenses.

FPL is the only electric utility in Florida that uses that much natural gas.

Jon Moyle, an attorney representing the Florida Industrial Power Users Group said Wednesday, “FPL’s latest business venture of wildcatting for oil and natural gas in Oklahoma, Texas and other states should not be funded by FPL’s captive customers.  While other oil and gas companies must compete to earn a profit, this legislation guarantees monopolistic FPL a healthy profit on its oil and natural gas drilling ventures, regardless of whether or not FPL’s ventures save ratepayers money.  The oil and gas business is very competitive and risky, and not something for which the Legislature should force FPL’s ratepayers to pay as part of their monthly electric bill.”

The PSC would adopt a rule requiring that any such  investment is projected to generate savings for customers over the life of the investment.

In December 2014 the PSC approved FPL’s request to collect the cost of its $191 million fracking venture with PetroQuest in Oklahoma’s Woodford Shale region from its customers through fuel charges on their bills.

Then in June 2015, the PSC gave FPL the go-ahead to invest as much as $500 million a year in natural gas drilling operations, effectively making the utility and its customers partners in what can be a risky business. FPL uses natural gas to provide about 70 percent of the fuel to run its power plants.

FPL was ordered to refund customers $24.5 million it had spent on the Woodford project.

 

 

 

 

Sierra Club files Florida Supreme Court suit to block FPL rate hike

FPL's Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.
FPL’s Riviera Beach plant is among those fueled by natural gas.

Sierra Club  filed a lawsuit Tuesday in the Florida Supreme Court to block Florida Power & Light’s rate hike for an energy plan that the environmental group says “bilks millions of customers and further locks the Sunshine State into an over-reliance on financially risky, climate-disrupting gas.”

On Nov. 29, the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously approved FPL’s $811 million base rate increase following a settlement between the company and  three customer groups. The rate increase took effect this month.

Prior to the rate increase’s approval, Sierra Club had submitted nearly 6,000 comments to the commission from Floridians who said the rate increase posed an economic hardship for them. The commenters also stressed that there’s no need for the gas-burning power plants in Florida.

Tuesday, FPL issued a statement calling the Sierra Club “an extreme group which takes extreme positions.”

The Sierra Club objects to FPL’s reliance on natural gas, which is used to produce about 70 percent of its electricity, while using solar energy to produce less than 1 percent.  It asserts that the Florida Public Service Commission violated Florida law in approving the rate increase.

Sierra Club officials said Florida law states that utilities may raise rates only after the PSC agrees that the increase is prudent and necessary to continue providing reliable, affordable power. To comply with Florida law, FPL was required to present the PSC—and the public—with substantial evidence to prove the gas plants were needed and were the least-cost option before building the plants or asking to raise customers’ rates to cover the costs.

FPL spokeswoman Sarah Gatewood said in a statement Tuesday:

“The Sierra Club is an extreme group that takes extreme positions, so while we are disappointed, we’re not surprised at the actions taken today by this Washington-based lobbying group.   Apparently they’re more interested in generating headlines and donations than working with the cleanest electric company in Florida and the only electric utility in the Southeast United States to already be in compliance with the EPA’s 2030 Clean Power Plan today.

“Rather than recognizing our innovative approach to running our business and the resulting significant benefits for all customers, including 1,200 megawatts of cost-effective new solar right here in Florida over the next four years, this out-of-state group is instead moving forward with more frivolous, expensive litigation that will cost all Floridians – not just FPL customers, but all Florida taxpayers,” Gatewood said.

“After a nearly year-long process that included more than 30 witnesses, countless hours of cross examination by attorneys for all parties, including the Sierra Club, and hundreds of thousands of pages of evidence, FPL and the Office of Public Counsel, which represents all customers, as well as other major customer stakeholder groups, reached a fair settlement that is clearly in the best interest of all of FPL’s customers – and the Florida Public Service Commission unanimously agreed.

“The settlement supports billions of dollars in planned investments to continue improving FPL’s electrical infrastructure, which is already one of the cleanest and most reliable in the U.S., while still keeping typical customer bills lower than they were in 2006 through 2020. We look forward to demonstrating those benefits yet again,” Gatewood said.

Sierra Club also criticized the $3 billion 515-mile Sabal Trail pipeline slated to be completed this year. It will  transport fracked gas to central Florida and then to FPL’s South Florida plants.

The pipeline’s construction threatens local waterways and wetlands and the fragile limestone surrounding the Floridan Aquifer, one of the largest freshwater aquifers in the world, the Sierra Club and others contend.

“There’s absolutely no justification for making families and businesses pay more of our hard-earned money just so FPL can line its shareholders’ pockets and pollute our air and water in the process,” said Sierra Club Florida Chapter Director Frank Jackalone.

Sierra Club Florida Chapter Chair Mark Walters said, “The PSC is supposed to make sure our energy sources are safe, reasonable and reliable. Instead, they’ve chosen to let FPL leave us vulnerable to price spikes when investments in solar and energy efficiency are proving to be safer and cheaper in states across the country.”

Floridians made it clear in November that they want more solar by voting down Amendment 1, a failed multi-million dollar attempt by FPL and other Florida utilities to mislead voters and hobble solar growth in the Sunshine State, Sierra Club officials said.

“FPL should take full advantage of our state’s clean energy potential instead of stubbornly building out dirty, unnecessary gas plants and pipelines that increase pollution and electric bills,” Walters said. “Renewable energy technologies are smarter, more cost-effective and safer than fossil fuels. FPL needs to stop propping up its stockholders at the expense of our communities and our natural resources.”

 

 

 

 

NextEra to report fourth-quarter, full-year financial results Jan. 27

NextEra plans to release its fourth-quarter and full-year results Jan. 27.
NextEra plans to release its fourth-quarter and full-year results Jan. 27.

NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE), headquartered in Juno Beach,  plans to report fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 financial results before the opening of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday, Jan. 27.

NextEra is the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co.

At 9 a.m. Jim Robo, NextEra’s chairman and chief executive officer and  John Ketchum, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and other members of the senior management team, will discuss the results during a webcast.

The listen-only webcast will be available on NextEra Energy’s website by accessing the following link: www.NextEraEnergy.com/investors. The financial results news release and the slides accompanying the presentation may be downloaded at www.NextEraEnergy.com/investors, beginning at 7:30 a.m. on the day of the webcast.

 

FPL brings three new solar plants online, four more planned this year

Halfway to one million solar panels at FPL's three new universal-scale solar plants! Construction continues here at the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Charlotte County, Fla. (PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company)
Solar panels at the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center in Punta Gorda,  Charlotte County are shown here. Provided.

Florida Power & Light Co. connected three new 74.5 megawatt solar plants to the grid Dec. 31, and said Friday it plans to complete four more solar plants of the same size this year.

Each of the newly-completed plants costs roughly $130 million to build and  produces enough power to supply 15,000 homes, FPL spokeswoman Alys Daly said.

The plants that came online in December —  the FPL Citrus Solar Energy Center, DeSoto County; the Manatee Solar energy Center, Manatee County, and the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center, Charlotte County,  bring FPL’s solar generating capacity to more than 335 megawatts, enough to power 60,000 homes.

The plants that collectively contain approximately 1 million solar panels were built on time, under budget and cost-effectively, meaning there will be no net cost to customers after savings from fuel and other generation-related expenses.

“FPL has been leading the smart- cost-conscious expansion of solar in Florida since we built our first solar power plant back in 2009,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said.

“By investing strategically in affordable clean energy, we continue to improve the efficiency of our system, reduce fuel consumption, lower emissions and keep costs down for our customers over the long term,” Silagy added.

The solar energy centers slated to be build this year will be in Alachua, Putnam and DeSoto counties, with the fourth location not determined yet, Daly said.

Daly said the local communities welcome the energy centers that are silent, operate autonomously and without lights,  produce no emissions and require no water. Each has a different footprint to minimize impact on wetlands.

Because the plants generate under 75 megawatts, they are exempt from the Florida Power Plant Siting Act, and the Florida Public Service Commission’s approval is not needed.

In November the PSC approved an $811 million rate hike for FPL which began this month.

Under the terms of a settlement agreement, FPL can undertake the construction of 300 megawatts of solar photovoltaic generation each year as long as it is cost-effective. FPL can charge customers for the solar installations.

Daly said she didn’t have an estimate for the cost of the four planned plants. The PSC must approve the costs and that company has to show there will be no net cost to customes after savings from fuel and other generation-related expenses.

The cost of the plants completed in 2016 are included in customers’ base rates.

 

 

FPL receives industry awards for restorations after Hermine and Matthew

FPL storm headquarters in West Palm Beach tracked Hurricane Matthew.
FPL employees tracked Hurricane Matthew at the company’s storm center in West Palm Beach.

Florida Power & Light Co, headquartered in Juno Beach,  announced  Wednesday it has received Edison Electric Institute’s “Emergency Recovery” and “Emergency Assistance” awards for its outstanding restoration efforts after Hurricanes Hermine and Matthew, and for assisting  Jacksonville Electric Authority  in its recovery efforts after Matthew.

“FPL’s commitment to restore service for its customers safely and quickly, and lend a hand to its utility partner is remarkable,” said Tom Kuhn, president for EEI. “The company and its storm response team is undoubtedly deserving of this national recognition.”

The EEI, an association of investor-owned electric utilities,  is holding its winter board and CEO meeting at The Breakers in Palm Beach through Thursday.

During Hurricane Hermine in September 2016, FPL crews worked safely and quickly to restore service to 100 percent of its customers impacted by the storm within 24 hours of Hermine’s passing, and customers experienced an average outage duration of less than three hours. FPL’s investments in smart grid automated switches also helped prevent 25,000 customer interruptions.

In October 2016  more than 1.2 million FPL customers  experienced outages during Hurricane Matthew, a Category 3 storm.  The company’s prompt response to the largest storm affecting Florida in more than a decade was the most effective in its history.

FPL restored 99 percent of customers affected by the end of two full days of restoration following Hurricane Matthew’s exit from its service area. Smart grid automated switches on FPL’s system prevented approximately 118,000 customer interruptions, and hardened distribution main power lines performed 30 percent better than non-hardened main power lines. No FPL transmission poles and hardened main power line poles failed due to high winds.

FPL participates in a mutual assistance program with other electric utilities from across the nation. During Hurricane Matthew, FPL received assistance from other utilities, as well as provided support to JEA to help get life back to normal for the state.

 

 

FPL seeks $318 million for Hurricane Matthew costs, storm reserve

FPL storm headquarters in West Palm Beach tracked Hurricane Matthew.
FPL storm headquarters in West Palm Beach tracked Hurricane Matthew.

The biggest chunk of Florida Power & Light Co.’s $811 million rate increase started in January, as the typical customer’s bill rose by $7.21 a month. Now another $3.36 a month increase is expected to show up beginning in March.

That’s because FPL, headquartered in Juno Beach,  is seeking to raise its customers bills to recoup $318.5 million for power restoration and replenishing its storm reserve fund following Hurricane Matthew. The storm grazed Florida’s east coast in October, with gusts exceeding 100 miles an hour in some spots.

The company said in filings with the Florida Public Service Commission that under a 2012 settlement agreement that expired Dec. 31,  it has the right to collect money from customers for hurricane-related costs, including the storm reserve.

If granted, the increase will result in a typical customer bill jumping to $102.77 from $91.56 in December. Those amounts do not include franchise  fees or local taxes, which vary. It’s likely the PSC will take up the issue in February.

Under the 2012 agreement, storm charges cannot exceed $4 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours of usage a month. The Matthew-related fees for FPL’s 4.8 million customer accounts will continue through February 2018.

“Obviously, Hurricane Matthew was a large and powerful storm that affected major portions of our service area and severely damaged the electric grid in some areas, particularly northern and central Florida. It knocked out power to about 1.2 million customers,” FPL spokesman Dave McDermitt said Wednesday.

“Our prompt response, which included approximately 14,600 restoration workers, really was the most effective in FPL history and helped us restore service to 99 percent of our customers within two days following the storm,” McDermitt said.

“We had to replace 250 miles of power lines, 900 transformers and 400 utility poles,” McDermitt said.

AARP and other intervenors fought against FPL’s proposed rate increase of $1.3 billion that the company had sought last year. Ultimately, FPL reached a settlement agreement between FPL and three groups representing customers. That base rate hike includes $400 million this year, $211 million in 2018 and $200 million in 2019.

AARP opposed that settlement, and has expressed concerns about the impact of the bigger bills on fixed-income seniors.

Wednesday,  Jack McRay, AARP Florida Advocacy Manager, said, “AARP Florida is concerned about the impact that this new rate increase would have on Florida residential ratepayers.  Given the new makeup of the Florida Legislature, we are exploring our options for addressing utilities regulation in 2017.”

Storm reserve funds were used to pay for damage from Hurricane Hermine in September, and by the time Matthew hit in early October, the fund was down to $93 million. FPL is allowed to bring it back to $117 million.

FPL has been collecting a storm charge since 2007 to pay for the costs of previous major storms, particularly those in 2004 and 2005, McDermitt said. The last bond payment to finance those repairs is  scheduled for August 2019.

Since 2009, FPL has not been permitted to collect money from customers in advance for future storm costs.

“This allowed base rates to be somewhat lower, but customers will now pay for Hurricane Matthew recovery costs,” McDermitt said.

In the last decade, FPL has spent roughly $2 billion on storm hardening costs, including strengthening 600 main power lines, placing 450 main power lines underground and clearing vegetation from more than 135,000 miles of power lines. In addition, 1.4 million poles have been inspected and upgraded or replaced as needed.

Storm-hardened feeder lines performed more than 30 percent better during Matthew than those that weren’t, McDermitt said. Smart grid technology helped avoid more than 118,000 service interruptions. No hardened distribution feeder pole or transmission structure failed.

Florida’s last major storms until Hermine and Matthew were 11 years ago, but restoration costs were fairly comparable, McDermitt said.

FPL spent more than $906 million on restoration following the 2005 hurricanes, with $721 million due to  Hurricane Wilma in October 2005. That storm left 98 percent of FPL customers without power.

While Florida was spared the worst of Matthew, the damage to FPL’s 35-county territory was substantial.

“The most striking difference was the recovery time,” McDermitt said. We had work crews that started in South Florida and then hopscotched up the coast. It hugged the coast the whole way up.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FPL Turkey Point Nuclear Plant cooling canal controversy: find out the what the latest ruling says

FPL's Turkey Point plant overlooks Biscayne Bay.
FPL’s Turkey Point plant overlooks Biscayne Bay.

In the latest twist in the battle over issues at Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point Nuclear Plant, a panel of three U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Thursday denied a citizens’ group’s request for a review related to the NRC’s allowing higher temperatures in the plant’s cooling canals.

The vote was 2-1, with Commissioner Jeff Baran dissenting. Commissioners Stephen Burns and Kristine Svinicki voted against allowing a review.

Barry White, president of Miami-based Citizens Allied for Safe Energy said the group plans to file an appeal of the decision in federal court.

CASE challenged the legality of the Atomic Safety Licensing Board’s  decision that it was okay for the board to supplement the NRC staff’s Environmental Assessment after the approval of the higher temperatures was granted.

In the dissent, Baran said that the problem is that an adequate environmental review must be considered before a decision is made to grant an amendment, not after it.

In 2014 the NRC granted FPL  a license amendment allowing a maximum temperature of 104 degrees in the  cooling canals after the previous limit of 100 degrees was reached in July. The plant with two nuclear reactors is 25 miles south of Miami and overlooks Biscayne Bay.

CASE objected to NRC staff’s approval of the amendment in August 2014 and its finding that the higher temperatures would have no adverse environmental impact.

CASE contended the NRC staff’s Environmental Assessment did not adequately address the potential impact of the increased temperature and salinity in the cooling system on saltwater intrusion into the aquifer or surface waters.

In January 2016 a three-judge panel with the Atomic Safety Licensing Board heard CASE’s petition in Homestead.

Since 2010 the plant’s 2-by-5-mile unlined cooling canal system has been linked to higher phosphorus and ammonia levels in Biscayne Bay and groundwater directly connected to the Biscayne Aquifer.

Heated water from the plant flows through 168 miles of canals before returning to the plant where it is re-circulated for cooling purposes.

In October FPL embarked on a 10-year cleanup of the extremely salty water in the cooling canal system,  which some experts say poses a potential threat to drinking water for roughly 3 million people as far north as Boca Raton.

The fix is expected to cost FPL customers $206 million over the decade, FPL officials said then.

In June, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection ordered FPL to eliminate the plume that extends two miles underground from the plant and to reduce high levels of nutrients in waters connected to Biscayne Bay.

On average, about 600,000 pounds of salt per day seep from the cooling canal system into the groundwater.

The panel which met in January found that the Environmental Assessment fell short of the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirements because it failed to sufficiently address saltwater migration and intrusion and withdrawals of water from the aquifer.

However, that panel ruled  that the evidence developed during that hearing cured the deficiencies. The ruling issued Thursday stated that the Atomic Safety Licensing Board has  a long history of  doing that, and said CASE had not identified any legal errors in the board’s decision.