INDIANTOWN — Florida Power & Light Co. will build its newest solar energy center here, making the announcement moments before blowing up its last remaining coal-fired power plant.
State and local leaders and other VIPs watched the implosion Wednesday morning as the 495-foot chimney toppled like a domino and an 800-foot coal chute collapsed by its legs.
The 15-second spectacle created a thunderous boom and a shockwave felt by observers more than a quarter-mile away.
Smoke lingered in the sky above what had been the Indiantown Cogeneration Plant as FPL representatives celebrated their next endeavor toward clean energy.
“Today is about ending one era, and I’m very very happy to announce us ringing in a new era,” FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy said just the implosion.
What’s next for the Indiantown site?
The state’s largest power company will construct a 75-megawatt facility with 300,000 solar panels on 500 acres, Silagy said.
FPL has 41 solar centers in Florida, including eight on the Treasure Coast, making the company the largest generator of solar energy in the state, said FPL spokesperson Alyssa Ten Eyck. The new Indiantown solar center would be the third in western Martin County.
The timeline for the $100-million solar energy center is unknown, FPL spokesperson Jack Eble told TCPalm.
“This is the next step in our 20-year modernization story of providing clean, reliable and affordable energy for our customers,” Eble said. “We’re more than 40% of the way through our 30-by-30 plan, which is putting 30 million solar panels in the state of Florida by the year 2030.”
Wednesday’s implosion was the first phase of clearing the property. D.H. Griffin Companies, FPL’s demolition contractor, will be on site until spring 2023, said Florida division manager Karen Soricelli.
D.H. Griffin in 2013 worked with FPL to demolish its Port Everglades oil-burning power plant, Soricelli said, which was transformed into a natural-gas plant.
FPL purchased the Indiantown plant in 2017 from Delaware-based Calypso Energy Holdings and officially closed it Dec. 31, FPL spokesmen said. The plant operated at minimum capacity its first year under FPL’s ownership, and generated no power in 2019 or 2020.
The plant originally was to shut down by late 2018, according to a 2016 FPL news release.
FPL’s other most recent coal-plant implosion was in August 2018 at its Cedar Bay Generating Plant in Jacksonville.
“It’s been compared to a thunderstorm. It will just be a momentary boom,” Soricelli told reporters Monday as they toured the soon-to-be-demolished facility.
Controlled Demolition, Inc., a subcontractor for the project, supplied about 170 pounds of dynamite and linear-shaped charges, or explosive-filled copper that detonates at about 27,000 feet per second and generates 3 million pounds of pressure per square inch, according to President Mark Loizeaux.
“It’s mainly gravity. It’s like the explosives are like a catalyst for a chemical reaction,” he said.
“All we’re doing is lowering it to make it safer for D.H. Griffin’s operators to cut it up with their big equipment and take it off site,” he continued, referring to the coal chute.
Representatives from FPL and D.H. Griffin declined to disclose the demolition cost.
FPL broke ground in 2008 at the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, the world’s first hybrid solar energy plant and Florida’s first utility-scale solar facility, just north of Indiantown. It became operational Dec. 31, 2016.
In addition to solar power, FPL’s push for clean energy has manifested through electric-vehicle infrastructure and elimination of coal-fired and oil-burning power plants over the last 20 years. The company is constructing the world’s largest solar-powered battery system in Manatee County.
“There are people across the country, and particularly in our industry, who say, ‘You can not be clean and affordable. You can not be clean and reliable. It’s one or the other,'” Silagy said. “We have proven that is not the case.”
Lina Ruiz is TCPalm’s watchdog reporter for Martin County. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @Lina_Ruiz48 or at 321-501-3845.