The Seminole Generating Station: 30 Years and Counting
Manager's Memo February 2014
When you think of birthdays, wedding days, and graduations, there is one thing these occasions all have in common: anniversaries. Anniversaries can be celebrated with friends, family, even coworkers. Seminole Electric Cooperative (Seminole), SVEC’s wholesale power provider, celebrated one of its own anniversaries at the start of the New Year. January 2014 marked the 30th year that Seminole’s coal-fired power plant, the Seminole Generating Station (SGS), has been producing electricity for its Members, including SVEC.
The decision for Seminole to build a coal-fired power plant was a result of the 1978 Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act, banning the use of natural gas for power generation. Approval from Seminole’s Board of Trustees, made up of 27-Member trustees, including three SVEC Board members, kick started Seminole’s goal to provide Members power through self-owned generating facilities at a wholesale rate. After several years of planning and construction, the first of two coal units at SGS became commercially available in January 1984. The second unit came online later that same year.
Consisting of two 650-megawatt coal-fired generating units, SGS is located on a 2,000-acre site in Palatka, Florida, about 60 miles south of Jacksonville. To supply the coal needed to operate SGS at full capacity, Seminole operates seven, 100 car trains that deliver coal from mines located more than 800 miles away. Maintained by teams of specially trained employees, SGS produces enough electricity to power approximately 850,000 homes.
In 2003, Seminole’s Board of Trustees made a strategic decision and a crucial investment that is paying off considerably today - agreeing to invest millions of dollars in upgrading and retrofitting the two coal-based generating units at SGS with state-of-the-art environmental control equipment. In total, SGS has more than $530 million invested in control equipment, reducing emissions and protecting the environment. Today, not only is SGS one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the U.S., it is also one of the most reliable plants in the country.
Seminole, in partnership with SVEC has worked diligently to meet our ongoing energy needs and to exceed in complying with federal regulations. For 30 years, the Seminole Generating Station has been a cornerstone for Seminole, its Members, and its energy portfolio. Thanks to the foresight of Seminole’s Board of Trustees in 1984, our Members will continue to receive affordable and reliable electricity from a generation facility we are proud to own.
Seminole believes it makes good business sense to have a diversified generation portfolio. In addition to coal-based generation at SGS, Seminole also generates electricity from natural gas, and now boasts Florida’s largest renewable portfolio. The diversity in Seminole’s generation mix reduces exposure to changing market conditions and helps keep rates competitive.
Coal, which was once a mandated fossil fuel for power generation, is now being restricted and overly regulated. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gears up to release strict federal regulations for existing power plants, including coal-fired facilities like SGS, cooperatives all over the U.S. and their Members are urging the EPA to keep an “All-of-the-above” energy approach.
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A New Beginning
Manager's Memo January 2014
As we begin a new year, I want to take this opportunity to tell you that I will be retiring at the end of January 2014. I have spent over thirty years in the electric utility industry but, by far the most gratifying part has been the time I have spent at Suwannee Valley. I am thankful for the support of the Board of Trustees as well as the dedication and hard work of the employees.
When I announced my retirement plans to the Board last July, they immediately put in place a plan to find my successor. After conducting a thorough search that drew interest from across the U.S. and Canada, I am pleased to report that the Board selected Mr. Mike McWaters who most recently served as the CEO of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative in Enterprise, Alabama. Mike will officially take over his duties on February 1, 2014.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that there remain many challenges facing electric utilities in general and utilities in the Southeast in particular primarily in regard to coal fired generating plants. These challenges often are the result of overly zealous federal regulation. Suwannee Valley will continue to join with cooperatives across the country to mitigate onerous regulations that impact what we pay for electricity. As recently as September, 2013, the EPA set in motion a plan to put stringent limits on carbon dioxide emissions from any new coal or natural gas-fired power plant – effectively removing coal from the nation’s fuel mix in the future.
In November 2013, SVEC launched an effort through www.svec-coop.com and by mail urging members to voice their opposition to these new regulations by signing the petition at Takeaction.coop. Additionally, SVEC has also been active by radio and news outlets expressing concern over the proposed EPA regulations. It is our hope that enough collective resistance be expressed to the EPA that they withdraw these over-reaching regulations, insuring more affordable energy for our members. We encourage our members to sign the petition as these new regulations are set to take effect by June 2015.
Keeping the Lights on with Coal
Manager's Memo December 2013
There are many different fuel sources for electricity generation, including fossil fuels, nuclear, and renewable energy. Seminole Electric Cooperative (Seminole), Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative’s wholesale power provider, maintains a diverse fuel mix that includes coal, natural gas, and renewable sources. Seminole relies on coal for approximately 50 percent of the energy needed to meet Member electricity consumption. Seminole’s Members include SVEC and eight other distribution cooperatives in Florida. With coal-fired generation being a “hot topic” in today’s headlines, it raises the question, “why did Seminole invest in coal-fired generation?”
Stemming from the 1973 oil crisis, the Power Plant and Industrial Fuel Use Act (FUA) was passed in 1978. The FUA prohibited the use of natural gas for power generation and required new power plants to use coal as the primary fuel source. This legislation helped prompt Seminole to build its coal-fired power plant.
The Seminole Generating Station (SGS), Seminole’s coal-fired power plant, became commercially available in 1984. Consisting of two, 650-megawatt (MW) coal-fired generating units, SGS is located on 2,000 acres in Putnam County, just north of Palatka.
In 2003, Seminole’s Board of Trustees invested millions of dollars in environmental upgrades in preparation to comply with Environmental Protection Agency air regulations. These upgrades consisted of retrofitting the coal-based generating units at SGS with state-of-the-art environmental control equipment. This equipment reduces emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO₂), nitrogen oxide (NOx), mercury, acid gases, and particulate matter (PM), among others. Today, this equipment removes more than 90 percent of the emissions of NOx, mercury, and acid gases, 92 percent of the SO₂ emissions, and 99 percent of the PM. SGS was featured in Power Magazine and named one of the top six coal plants in the world.
Over the years, Seminole has invested more than $530 million in environmental controls, making its coal-fired generating facility one of the cleanest and reliable power plants in the country. With this technology, Seminole is able to keep Members electricity reliable and affordable.