Fort Myers Power Plant

The Fort Myers Power Plant is operated by the Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) and serves residents and businesses in the Fort Myers area in Florida. The original plant, completed in 1958, was an oil-fired generating facility that at the time was considered a state-of-the-art power station, and more than adequate to serve the rapidly expanding population in the region. In fact it turned out to be less efficient than first imagined and was one of the major polluting facilities in Florida. In 2002 construction was completed on a replacement facility that was designed around the popular combustion turbine concept. Gas powered turbines are similar to the engines of jet airliners in that exhaust from gas fuel acts as the energy source, but in the case of a power plant the exhaust is used to turn giant turbines that are connected to the electromagnetic generators. The hot exhaust is also used to heat boilers, which in turn produce steam to operate additional turbines. The new power plant delivers about 1.5 gigawatts of energy, about three times the capacity of the older facility. There are a total of six combustion turbines and two steam turbines, and operating efficiency is much higher than the oil facility it replaced. It is also a much cleaner burning system; initial studies showed a smaller pollutant level than was predicted, making the Fort Myers Power Plant one of the most environmentally-friendly utility complexes in Florida. FPL currently serves over 4.5 million residential and business customers throughout the state, and much of this total comes from the electricity generated at the Fort Meyer Power Plant. FPL actually delivers more than 50 percent of its electricity from power stations that no longer use coal or oil to fuel their furnaces. The new plant has the latest in safety technology built in to the facility. The plant that it replaced, however, likely contained a large amount of asbestos, which is a natural mineral that for over a century was used in electric generating stations and other industrial applications around the world. Because of its ability to insulate heated metals, asbestos was used to cover steam pipes and shield walls and ceilings from excessive temperatures that were normal in coal-fired and oil burning power plants. Asbestos fibers often became airborne and could have been inhaled by workers at the original Fort Meyers Power Plant. By the 1980s enough scientific evidence had been gathered to link asbestos exposure to a number of ill effects, including lung cancer and a disease known as mesothelioma, a malignancy that is fatal. The number of workers at the original Fort Myers Power Plant who are at risk for asbestos-related illnesses remains unknown. References: