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Closing McIntosh Unit 3

Lakeland Electric presented their plan to close McIntosh Unit 3, a coal-fired power plant, by fall of 2024 to the Lakeland Utilities Committee during their May meeting. Here are some frequently asked questions about the plan:

Q1: When did Lakeland Electric decide to shutter McIntosh Unit 3?

A1: Coal-fired power plants are typically designed with a life expectancy of 30 years. McIntosh Unit 3, built in 1982, is currently 37 years old. Although some coal units have run longer than their design life, McIntosh 3 has recently exhibited signs of degrading material condition and has been faced with environmental challenges that have caused management to seriously consider developing a shuttering scenario. Additionally, a significant number of employees nearing retirement suggested an opportunity to phase out the unit while lessening the impact on the workforce. The combination of these factors resulted in a shuttering scenario announced in Spring of 2019 with closure sometime in the fall of 2024, when the unit would be 42 years old.

Q2: What information did you consider?

A2: Management considered the age of the unit, the cost of operating it relative to more efficient units such as McIntosh Unit 5, historical data which indicates a declining number of hours of operation, recent experience with costly maintenance discoveries during planned outages, and the costly environmental challenges Unit 3 would face in the near future. We also considered capital and O&M spending trends and the expected increasing trends going forward, as well as the opportunity to plan a shuttering timeline that would match the expected attrition of staff due to retirements over the coming years.

Q3: Why was this decision made?

A3: McIntosh Unit 3 is an aging coal unit with many costly challenges ahead, and the question is not if it should be shuttered but when. Considering all things, the timing appears right for a shuttering over a five-year horizon.

Q4: Can’t we refurbish the unit?

A4: Gas repowering would be very expensive, and would leave Lakeland Electric with a unit whose efficiency would not often place it in a dispatch scenario. The unit would also not serve peaking demands well as it takes many hours to start up.

Q5: When will McIntosh Unit 3 cease operations?

A5: The current target is fall of 2024, although a significant equipment failure, regulatory requirement, or other unexpected development, could result in a sooner closure.

Q6: What is the capacity of McIntosh Unit 3?

A6: Approximately 365 Megawatts, of which Lakeland Electric owns 60%, or 220 Megawatts, and Orlando Utilities owns the other 40%, or 145 Megawatts. An internal study suggests Lakeland Electric would need to acquire 136 Megawatts of replacement capacity in 2024.

Q7: What impact will this have on Lakeland Electric’s workforce?

A7: Coal-fired units require a significantly larger workforce than similar sized gas-fired combined cycle units like McIntosh Unit 5, so there would be a significant effect on staffing. Management is currently working through the analysis of the staffing needs for future generation, and will do all we can to minimize the effect of this action on employees.

Recent related media articles:

The Ledger: Lakeland Electric to shutdown Unit 3 by fall 2024

Orlando Sentinel: Orlando and Lakeland coal power plant set to retire

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy: Another Florida Coal Plant to Go the Way of the Dinosaurs

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