Distributed Energy Resources

Tallahassee aims to go all renewable by 2050

Tallahassee, Florida, has adopted a goal of getting all its energy from renewable resources by 2050.

“When the goal is met, the city will, on average, produce as much clean renewable energy as the community consumes, and any unavoidable use of non-renewable energy will be balanced by the export of renewable energy to other communities,” the Tallahassee City Commission said in a resolution adopted on Feb. 20.

The renewable energy policy extends the city’s long-running efforts to be an environmental leader, according to Rob McGarrah, general manager of the city’s electric utility.

“Our electric utility emits less greenhouse gases than in the 1990s and we’re serving about 45 percent more load,” McGarrah said. “We’ve been moving in this direction.”

Tallahassee may speed up its goal depending on how technologies advance and how quickly renewable energy and storage costs decline, according to the resolution approved by the city commission.

As part of the overall 100 percent renewables goal, the city adopted several interim targets.

For example, the city intends its facilities to use only renewable energy by 2035 while its light duty vehicles and mass transit buses are set to be all electric by the same year. The rest of the city’s vehicles will move to all electric as the technology becomes available.

Next, Tallahassee’s public power utility will map out a path for reaching the 100 percent renewable goal while meeting reliability and cost criteria via an integrated resource planning process, according to McGarrah. The IRP will look at various options for reaching the goal, including different timelines for getting there.

“We know there will have to be technology improvements to make this work,” McGarrah said. “There will be new technologies in the next 20 years we haven’t thought of yet.”

An interim IRP report, including an initial analysis of interim goals, is due by June 1, 2020.

Tallahassee’s electric utility serves about 120,000 customers across a 221 square mile service territory.

The utility has three natural gas-fired power plants totaling about 707 megawatts, which are used to help meet a peak load of about 620 MW. The utility sold about 2.7 million megawatt-hours last year.

The natural gas-fired fleet includes 93 MW of quick-start reciprocating engines and is adding an 18.6-MW quick-start unit later this year, partly to help handle the utility’s growing solar portfolio, according to a presentation to the city commission.

The fossil-fueled plants will have reached the end of their book lives by 2050, McGarrah noted. As part of the IRP, the utility will explore the possibility of retiring some of the units early if it makes sense, he said.

The power plants are relatively new with an average age of 11.6 years and are highly efficient. Since 2000, the utility’s power plant fleet has become 30 percent more efficient and air emissions have dropped by 80 percent, according to the presentation.

The utility also gets electricity from a 20-MW solar facility that is being expanded by another 40 MW by early next year.

Tallahassee has about 2 MW of rooftop solar that is supported by the utility’s net metering program.

Meanwhile, the city’s electric utility also has long-running demand-side management programs that have helped the utility essentially keep demand growth flat in the last decade while deferring the need to add about 100 MW of new power supplies.

Tallahassee isn’t alone among Florida cities and their public power utilities in seeking to increase their renewable energy portfolios.

In October, Gainesville’s city commission directed the Gainesville Regional Utility to get all its electricity from renewables by 2045 and the Orlando City Commission two years ago adopted a 100-percent goal by 2050.