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Cutting-Edge Coal


CLEANER COAL: The Taylor County power plant will be one of the cleanest-burning coal plants in the state.
Four Florida power suppliers looking to diversify fuel sources away from natural gas and oil because of soaring prices and supply uncertainties have started the permitting process for construction of a $1.5-billion, 800-megawatt coal-burning power plant near Perry in rural Taylor County.

The plant, to serve mainly central and northeast Florida metropolitan areas, will be one of the nation's cleanest-burning coal-fired plants, with lower regulated emissions than any operating in Florida, says Jacksonville Electric Authority's Mike Lawson, North Florida Power Project manager. Besides Jacksonville Electric, the project's partners are the city of Tallahassee, Florida Municipal Power Agency (Orlando) and the Reedy Creek Improvement District (Disney World).

The plant's big plus for Taylor County is economic, says County Commission Chairman Daryll Gunter. "We're desperately in need of jobs with higher pay." The projected 180 permanent jobs would pay an average of $55,400, more than twice Taylor's current average wage of $27,394. Four-year construction starting in 2008 could create 1,234 jobs at its peak.

Gunter says most county residents favor the project, despite some opposition over environmental concerns; residents in Madison and Leon counties urged Taylor County to reject it. But a Tallahassee referendum ratified city participation after utility officials estimated the plant could cut power generation costs in half.

Taylor County won't benefit from those lower generating costs; it's served by other utilities. "We look at this as attracting a new industry," says Gunter.