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Public Service Commission approves need for $1.3 billion FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy plant

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Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) is one step closer to the development of a $1.3 billion high-efficiency power plant in Okeechobee County, one of the most efficient and cleanest energy plants in the country.

On Tuesday, the five-member Florida Public Service Commission approved a need for the proposed FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy Center, a 1,633-megawatt facility scheduled to begin generating clean energy by mid-2019. The plan will be powered by U.S.-produced natural gas.

According to an FPL statement, there will be no impact on customer rates until after the plant begins service in rural northeastern Okeechobee County in 2019. The company expects costs to consumers will be partially offset by fuel cost savings.

FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy called approval of the Okeechobee Center “another major milestone” in a program of phasing out older power-generating units, replacing them with new high-efficiency clean energy centers that reduce emissions and save money for its customers. The plant will take up 220 acres, generating enough power for 300,000 homes in the fast-growing region.

“Not only is the FPL Okeechobee Clean Energy Center the most cost-effective option for meeting Florida’s future energy needs,” Silagy added, “it will also help us keep our customers’ bills low for the long term and further reduce emissions from our system, which is already among the cleanest and most affordable in the nation.”

The Okeechobee Clean Energy Center is one part of a long-term FPL strategy of modernizing the energy grid by investing in fuel-efficient power generation while phasing out older, less fuel-efficient facilities using coal and oil. The goal is to rely more on U.S.-produced natural gas, zero-emissions nuclear and solar energy.

Other plans include new nuclear power plants and, by the end of 2016, the completion of three new large-scale Florida solar energy centers.

FPL officials say the Okeechobee facility will also provide economic benefits to the region with the creation of as much as 650 “good-paying jobs” during peak work periods in the two-year construction project, which expects to bring an overall economic benefit of more than $500 million.

During the projected 30-year life of the plant, operations are expected to generate $238 million in new tax revenue for Okeechobee County, its school district and other local taxing authorities.

Approval by the PSC is the first in several comprehensive reviews by state, county, regional and federal regulators. If the remaining approvals and permits are successful, the Okeechobee facility will begin construction in 2017, with the goal of going online by June 2019.

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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