Tech Tour Provides Close Look at Space Coast Power Plant

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Many people consider Cape Canaveral to be the birthplace of the U.S. space program. It conjures up thoughts of Apollo rocket liftoffs and space shuttle launches. Some 32 people who attended Monday afternoon’s Cape Canaveral Next Generation Clean Energy Center tech tour learned that it is also home to one of the most technologically advanced combined-cycle gas turbine facilities in the U.S.

Located just across the St. John River from the Kennedy Space Center is the 3-in-1 combined-cycle 1,250 MW (nominal rating) power plant that helps power Florida’s Space Coast and much more. The plant, commissioned by FPL in April 2013, just over two years after construction began, utilizes three of the first six Siemens’ flagship SGT6-8000H turbines brought to the U.S. from Berlin. (The other three units are installed at FPL’s Riviera site.)

The new modern plant sits on the former site of two 400 MW oil-fired units that were built in 1965 to support the Kennedy Space Center, which was just beginning construction at that time.

Aiming to improve fleet efficiency and lessen its environmental footprint company-wide, FPL decided it was time to replace the original 45-year-old plant, Joe Fisher, Cape Canaveral Energy Center’s production manager, told those attending the technical tour.

In June 2010, the company demolished and hauled off almost everything at the plant site, including conduit, pipe, and concrete, Fisher said. The only things left after the original plant’s demolition were the intake structure and two outlets that return the cooling water back to the river. In March 2011, construction began on the new plant.

After about 20 months of commercial operation, FPL is pleased with the plant’s performance, Fisher said. The new Cape Canaveral plant uses 33 percent less fuel per megawatt-hour (MWh) generated, releases half the emissions, and produces 50 percent more power than its predecessor.

Its average heat rate has been about 6,300 mmBtu/MWh, Fisher said. In addition, during winter months, the plant often reaches a capacity of 1,330 MW, which is significantly higher than its nominal rating,

“The turbines really like that cooler air,” he said.

To top it off, all this improved performance was achieved without adding more water or land.

FPL expects the plant to provide its customers with hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel and other savings over and above the investment it made in equipment and construction.

FPL, Siemens, and Zachry Inc. are particularly proud that the plant was completed one month ahead of schedule and more the $140 million under its $1 billion budget.

Steady rain on Monday afternoon kept the tour attendees from getting an up close look at much of the plant’s equipment, but it didn’t keep them from visiting the control room, where Bob Lake, an instrumentation and control specialist, explained how the Siemens T3000 control system is used to operate the plant.

A single operator can monitor and operate all three units at once, he said.

When one tour attendee asked Lake what problems had been encountered since the plant began operating, he said no major issues have occurred.

“The plant has been a beast so far,” Lake said.

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