Florida Power Leaving Coal for Solar, Hydrogen

June 16, 2021

Florida Power and Light making the no-brainer move from coal to solar.

Interestingly, according to this CNBC report above, a Hydrogen component is in the works starting soon.

WPTV-West Palm Beach:

FPL will be replacing it with a $100 million new solar energy plant.

The company has replaced old oil-burning plants, such as the one at Port Everglades, with natural gas plants. FPL is also investing heavily in solar power.

“We’re able to actually lower customer bills, because coal plants are just expensive to operate, and we’re able to, obviously, clean up the environment because coal plants produce, unfortunately, emissions, and we’re going to be replacing it with a solar facility that produces zero emissions and uses no water,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said.

14 Responses to “Florida Power Leaving Coal for Solar, Hydrogen”

  1. Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

    Have recently become aware that the old coal gas was heavily, to mostly, Hydrogen. Take this to mean that storage and transmission are not as problematic as ‘believed’.
    This is encouraging!

    • John Oneill Says:

      Sounds a bit dodgy to me -‘ the goal is we keep blending it till eventually, it becomes 100% ‘ hydrogen. Since hydrogen only has a third the energy content of methane by volume, and needs better seals and linings because of its leakiness and embrittlement of metals, it’s only been added at maximum 20% so far. As you go up, you’ll need bigger tanks, faster pumping, modified burners, etc.
      ‘ As hydrogen blending increases, the average calorific content of the blended gas falls, and thus an increased volume of blended gas must be consumed to meet the same energy needs. For instance, a 5% blending by volume of hydrogen would only displace 1.6% of natural gas demand.’ Greenpeace Energy in Germany has been running for ten years, and has worked up to 1% hydrogen, ten percent biogas, and 89% imported fossil gas.
      Those plants they were blowing up in the video were oil burners. Gas plants in some states are paid to keep a week or so worth of oil stored, to use when there’s a Texas-style shortage of gas. Oil’s dirty, but it’s much easier to store than methane, and much, much easier than hydrogen.
      In 2020, Florida Power and Lights’s generation mix was 2% oil, 8% solar, 12% nuclear, and 78% gas. Hey, that’s better than Greenpeace Energy !

      • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

        Dodgy indeed. The present hydrogen hype is way above the previous incarnations of ‘hydrogen will save the world’. Much hype appears serious. so I live in skeptical hope. My above factoid resurrected memories of a Gasometer storing gas from imported black coal. Stinking thing. Then 60 years ago seeing brown coal gas pipeline being laid, order of 150 km long. Both made of metal, and survived years storing much hydrogen. Ergo. stuff can be stored,(?) one problem dismissed. If it helps the problem, go for it. Thanks for your numbers above.

    • John Oneill Says:

      Coal gas -‘town gas’ – was 50% hydrogen, but it didn’t need much storage because the storage was mostly coal. It wasn’t piped long distances, either. Methane gives about 38 megajoules per m3, town gas was mostly about 20, and H2 has 12.

  2. Joe Romm once wrote a book titled, The Hype About Hydrogen. If Joe Romm thinks hydrogen is hyped …


  3. Frank Price Says:

    There are other ways to store hydrogen than as the elemental gas or liquid. Consider the possibilities of ammonia…

    • John Oneill Says:

      Ammonia is a very toxic and corrosive chemical to spread around the planet in billion ton quantities, and it’s already causing ecological havoc through eutrophication of rivers, plus breakdown to form nitrous oxide, the third most important greenhouse gas. A better choice for a synthetic hydrogen carrier is dimethyl ether, which is much less toxic, has a ten degree higher boiling point and lower vapour pressure at room temperature (so needing less pressure to store), and has double the energy density by volume (though only half that of gasoline.) It does emit CO2, but can be made from any carbon source, including dissolved CO2 and carbonate ions from seawater. It can be handled with the same infrastructure as LPG, but packs more energy per mole of carbon, and burns more cleanly, with no soot, and very low NOX.

  4. FPL will be replacing it with a $100 million new solar energy plant.

    That is a blatant lie or, more likely, the author of that piece is a complete energy ignoramus. First of all, there’s no way a solar plant of that scale would fit on the old coal plant site. Second, any notion that hydrogen is going to replace the electricity that plant generates at night is completely unserious. Here’s what you need to know about hydrogen grid storage:

    Hydrogen can certainly be hydrolyzed from water. And the necessary electricity can certainly come from intermittent renewables. The most efficient way to convert hydrogen back to electricity at grid scale would be a PEM fuel cell or an SOFC. The math can be done using Ballard’s 1MW PEM, since a few have actually been sold as demos. Ignore the technical difficulties of bulk hydrogen storage, which the following methane alternative ‘solves’.

    The theoretical efficiency of hydrolysis is ~88%. About 4% of commercial hydrogen is made this way today, with real efficiencies of ~75%. EERE says PEM fuel cells can be 60% efficient. But that is also theoretical. Ballard’s real 1 MW ClearGen® is 40±2% efficient, with a lifetime of ~15 years (similar to NaS). The round trip efficiency of a hydrogen electricity storage system would be about (0.75 * 0.4) 30%. For a utility, that is awful.

    The electricity to be stored comes mainly from otherwise flexed base load generation, with chemical storage buffering renewable intermittency no different than PHS buffers peaks. The energy cost alone would be about ($57/MWh baseload / 0.3 efficiency) $190/MWh. Ballard’s ClearGen® costs about $10 million/MW (including inverter, transformer, and installation).That calculates a capital LCOE of about $114/MWh. Adding hydrolysis and H2 storage, the system LCOE is >>$304/MWh. It is simply not commercially viable–by nearly an order of magnitude. Before solving the hydrogen storage problem.


    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Judith Curry? The Judith Curry who testified that satellites produced the most reliable temperature data (in favor of Roy Spencer and John Christy’s grossly defective analysis of satellite sensor data) after making a name for herself attacking consensus climate scientists for how they handled uncertainties?

      • That’s a guest post at Judith Curry’s blog written by Rud Istvan (Harvard law grad, super capacitor patent holder and all around knowledgeable guy on energy). Can you refute anything in his post?

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Some red flags pop up:

          “At a minimum, flexing results in costly capital inefficiency. ”

          One of the issues Tony Seba points out that I agree with is that power plants are funded on an archaic model of constant production to support the high overheads of thermal power plants

          “The second largest, E.ON, took a €4.5 billion impairment charge 4Q2014, and announced it was spinning its conventional generating assets off into an unprofitable separate company. E.ON will also be shutting Irsching 4 and 5, large efficient CCGT units completed in 2010 and 2011!”

          It’s been discussed here several times that investors (in part duped by poor IEA projections) underestimated how quickly RE would develop, and planned and built too many gas thermal plants to replace shuttered coal plants. This was an understandable mistake in the rapidly shifting technological environment (like dot-bombs during the early growth of the WWW), but it is not an argument against a new RE-dominated grid.

          “So renewables advocates hope for major advances in grid storage to offset wind and solar intermittency. ”

          Grid storage is a maturing field that is garnering more and more mainstream capital investment on several different fronts. The profit motive for these investments is vanilla buying of energy when it’s cheap (as when cost “goes negative” today) and selling it when the price goes up. Follow the money.

          “…while selling its electricity against the subsidized renewables with which it is also forced to compete…”

          It pisses me off that people are still mentioning subsidies for RE. Not only has traditional power generation been subsidized out the wazoo for decades, but there are coal plants that have been running at a loss for years with rate-payers picking up the tab.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      “FPL will be replacing it with a $100 million new solar energy plant.”

      That is a blatant lie or, more likely, the author of that piece is a complete energy ignoramus. First of all, there’s no way a solar plant of that scale would fit on the old coal plant site.

      In the video they said the solar plant would be adjacent to the old thermal plant. It would use pretty much the same grid connection.

      I take the hydrogen talk mostly as an interesting proof-of-concept experiment. It’s part of the competition among technologies that we expected in the transition to a new approach to managing energy without fossil fuels.

  5. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Even today some utilities are running coal power plants at a loss for years at a time* when cheaper grid energy is available. The utilities, investment banks and red-state regulators who are asking ratepayers to pay more than the going price of energy were discussed in last week’s podcast from The Energy Gang (just under an hour long, with some skippable chatting and promos).

    The Energy Gang podcast: Coal is Uncompetitive. Why do we burn so much.


    *Due to something called “self-scheduling”.

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