Tampa Electric Company’s (TECO) Big Bend Power Station in Apollo Beach, Florida is operating with two recently added GE 7HA.02 gas turbines and two GE H65 generators. TECO and GE made the announcement April 7.

It represents the first phase of TECO’s Big Bend modernization project, an effort to replace coal-fired generation with that of natural gas. Initially, Big Bend’s new units will operate in simple cycle mode, with combined-cycle operation targeted in late 2022.

The 1,090 MW power plant would replace existing 50-year-old coal-fired units at the site. As part of the modernization project, TECO retired Big Bend coal-fired unit 2.

Separately, Big Bend coal-fired Unit 3 will be retired in April of 2023. Tampa Electric also owns a 19.8 MWAC single axis tracking solar station coupled with a 12.6 MW lithium-ion battery storage unit at Big Bend.

The utility, which provides electricity to more than 800,000 customers in west central Florida, plans to have six million solar panels installed at 10 sites by 2023.

GE said its 7HA.02 turbines would improve TECO’s power plant efficiencies from the mid-30% range to greater than 60%. GE’s Mark VIe control system expects provide turbine generator control and performance visibility, with data collected from sensors throughout the facility monitored and analyzed 24/7. GE said its 9HA turbines are capable of firing hydrogen at a 50% mix.

Big Bend Power Station has been generating coal-fired power since Unit 1 went into service in 1970 and Unit 2 was commissioned three years later. Tampa Electric added scrubbing technology to units 3 and 4 in 1984 and 1995, respectively.

A 60 MW gas and fuel oil-fired peaking unit were installed in 2009. Over a 20-year period leading up to 2018, the utility dropped the coal-fired portion of its generation capacity from 90 to 12 percent.

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