OUC Board Approves Possible Purchase of 20-Year-Old Osceola Natural Gas Power Plant
On Aug. 10, 2021, the Orlando Utilities Commission’s Board approved an agenda item that allows the General Manager & CEO to enter an agreement to purchase the Osceola Generating Station, a 20-year-old idle 510-megawatt (MW) single-cycle natural gas-fired power plant located near Harmony in Osceola County.
OUC was approached in May 2021 with an opportunity that would enable large-scale solar farms by mitigating the intermittency of solar power, the utility’s most viable source of renewable energy. The move also allows OUC to retire its oldest coal-fired power plant, Stanton Unit 1 located in East Orange County at the utility’s Stanton Energy Center (SEC). The purchase further provides the utility an extra layer of resiliency because the Osceola site includes emergency backup fuel to help prevent power disruption events as seen in Texas last February.
The nearly $100 million deal to purchase and upgrade the inactive plant from Genova, a Texas-based private ownership group, will not change OUC’s commitment to its Electric Integrated Resource Plan (EIRP), the utility’s 30-year energy roadmap, to move away from all coal-fired generation by 2027. However, it would allow OUC to retire Unit 1, built in 1987, as opposed to the conversion to natural gas OUC previously announced in its EIRP in 2020.
The Osceola plant is comprised of three separate turbines, known in the industry as “peakers,” which can turn on and off quickly as opposed to the larger, older Stanton Unit 1 turbine that requires more fuel and takes many hours to turn on. The Osceola site can power up in just minutes.
“The acquisition of the Osceola Generating Station makes financial sense for our ratepayers because the long-term costs of converting SEC Unit 1 and running it for 20 years far exceed this initial investment,” said Jan Aspuru, OUC Chief Operating Officer. “The widespread solar generation of tomorrow requires OUC to be much more flexible and nimble in the way we generate power. We must make certain that when clouds cover one of our 400-plus acre solar farms our customers never notice the difference. There’s a lot that we have to do have behind the scenes to ensure reliability, resiliency and affordability as we create a path to sustainability.”
OUC remains committed to meeting the EIRP’s objectives, which include increasing solar energy and other renewable resources for electric generation, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2030 and 75% in 2040 before reaching Net Zero emissions by 2050.
OUC is aggressively increasing its reliance on solar energy, with plans to boost capacity to 270.5 MW by 2024. Meanwhile, the utility is exploring back-up storage solutions and the use of other clean energy assets in addition to investing in electrification programs that would result in further carbon dioxide reductions and cleaner air for our community.