Duke Energy to build power plant in Florida

Duke Energy plans to self-build a 1,640-megawatt power plant in Florida next to the shuttered nuclear plant it retired last year.

The combined-cycle plant’s two units will be fueled by natural gas. The plant will go up adjacent to Duke’s Crystal River complex in Citrus County and is expected to cost $1.5 billion.

Duke’s Florida state president, Alex Glenn, called the self-build decision “the most cost-effective option” for customers.

The new plant will be fueled by gas shipped through a new pipeline that Sabal Trail Transmission is building from Alabama to central Florida.

The Crystal River complex houses the nuclear plant and two coal-fired plants that Duke will retire when the new gas plant opens in 2018.

The nuclear plant was shuttered after a botched repair led to structural problems in its concrete containment structure.

A settlement the Florida Public Service Commission approved in October let Duke start recovering from Florida customers $135 million of the plant’s value this year. The remaining value of the plant, nearly $1.5 billion, will be recovered over 20 years.

The settlement also let Duke pass to customers $350 million to wind down a canceled engineering and construction contract for a new nuclear plant in Florida’s Levy County.

The N.C. Utilities Commission has to approve the new Crystal River project – and two others Duke announced Tuesday – before they can go forward. Duke expects a ruling later this year.

Duke said it will build two gas-fired turbine generators at its Suwanee plant near Live Oak. The generators will have a capacity of 320 megawatts when they go online in 2016 and cost $197 million.

Duke will also install upgrades at its gas-fired power plants at the Hines complex in Polk County, spending $160 million to add 220 megawatts to their output.

Duke Florida serves 1.7 million customers, making it Duke Energy’s second-largest of the six states it serves.