APOLLO BEACH, Fla. — Two of the massive chimneys at Tampa Electric’s Big Bend Power Station are coming down over the next six months in what is expected to be a long and intricate process.
For decades, the coal-fired power station had four 500-foot chimneys that became a landmark for both boaters and drivers. One chimney was dismantled in 2016 and two of the remaining three will be taken down before the year ends.
Some of the units at the Big Bend station are now powered by natural gas using a combined-cycle technology. The switch to natural gas made two of the chimneys obsolete, and Tampa Electric says they need to come down as both a safety precaution and to prevent any unnecessary maintenance costs.
Cherie Jacobs with Tampa Electric says the process will be slow and methodical.
“These chimneys have an inner liner of brick and the exterior is poured, reinforced concrete. They’re not easy to take down,” she said. “They’re very sturdy.”
Tampa Electric reports that since 2020, the company has reduced its use of coal by about 90% and cut its carbon footprint in half. To date, the company uses about 85% natural gas, 10% solar and less than 5% coal.
“We’ve modernized a portion of this plant and it’s state-of-the art, high efficient and runs on natural gas,” Jacobs said.
The power plant is also known for its manatee viewing center. Each winter, hundreds of manatees flock to the canal by the Big Bend plant because of how warm the water is. Jacobs says the new process creates the same warm water and there shouldn’t be a change for the manatees.
“With the highly efficient equipment, we’re still producing warm water and manatees will still continue to come to this canal,” she said.
The manatee viewing center is a federal and state sanctuary and is open to the public from Nov. 1 to April 15 each year.
Work on the chimneys is just now beginning and should take roughly six months.