Tampa Electric completes work on Big Bend Modernization project

Published on January 13, 2023 by Dave Kovaleski

© Tampa Electric

Tampa Electric finished work on its project to modernize the Big Bend power plant, eliminating coal as the fuel for Unit 1 and installing combined-cycle technology.

Construction began in August 2019 and was finished ahead of schedule, coming online on Dec. 16, 2022. Crews worked more than 3.5 million hours with no lost-time injuries. It also came in under budget.

The project can produce 1,090 megawatts (MW), which is enough energy to power more than 250,000 homes.

Big Bend Unit 1 is now the most efficient generator in Tampa Electric’s fleet. In addition to the modernization of Unit 1, the company retired Unit 2. Unit 3 will retire in spring 2023. Unit 4 remains in operation with coal or natural gas.

“This project is improving the land, water, and air emissions at Big Bend, and it is a continuation of TECO’s great environmental record,” Archie Collins, president and CEO of Tampa Electric, said. “This investment in cleaner energy will provide significant savings to customers – and will further reduce our use of coal.”

The project will reduce Tampa Electric’s carbon footprint and play a significant role in changing the company’s fuel mix. In 1998, 90 percent of Tampa Electric’s energy was generated from coal. In 2023, more of Tampa Electric’s energy will be generated from the sun than from coal.

Officials said the Big Bend Modernization project will save customers more than $700 million over its 30-year life. In 2022 alone, solar power saved customers about $80 million in fuel costs. By the end of 2025, Tampa Electric will have more than 1,600 MW of solar power – enough to power nearly 260,000 homes. With 17 percent of its energy coming from the sun in 2025, TECO will have the highest percentage of solar power of any electric company in the state.

Tampa Electric — a subsidiary of Emera Inc., an energy company based in Halifax, Nova Scotia — serves about 830,000 customers in West Central Florida.