‘Vote of Confidence’ Seminole receives massive loan to embark on new addition

Palatka Daily News

By: Nick Blank on September 1, 2020

Seminole receives massive loan to embark on new addition

Seminole Electric Cooperative has received confirmation of $727 million in federal loans to build its gas-fired plant in Putnam County, expected to be operational in early 2023.

The loan will be used to help finance Seminole’s 1,050-megawatt natural-gas facility in Palatka and ensure continued power generation and jobs for local residents. It is the largest funding ever to be awarded in Florida by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, according to the agency.

Seminole CEO and General Manager Lisa Johnson said the federal funding was a vote of confidence in the project.

The loans are issued below market interest rates from private lenders, which saves electric cooperative consumers millions of dollars over the life of the facility, she said. The term of the loan is about 30 years.

“Adding this new combined-cycle facility to Seminole’s portfolio will increase the generating resources we use to provide safe, affordable, reliable electricity for our member cooperatives,” Johnson said. “It will also continue our relationship with Putnam County for years to come.”

The new facility will be next to Seminole’s coal-fired Seminole Generating Station. The new 1,050-megawatt natural gas facility is progressing on budget and schedule, with commercial service expected to begin by 2023, according to Seminole.

Phil Leary, state director for Rural Development Florida and U.S. Virgin Islands, said the project allowed for a dependable, financially astute source of electricity for rural communities throughout the state.

“We at USDA Rural Development work hard every day to assure that when rural America prospers, all of America prospers,” Leary said.

Seminole Electric provides wholesale electricity to nine smaller cooperatives and about 1.8 million consumers and businesses in 42 counties, with Clay Electric covering Putnam County.

Ryan Hart, Seminole’s director of communication and energy policy, said the combined-cycle facility’s site was cleared and crews were installing the 20-mile natural gas pipeline that will serve it. The loan was indicative of Seminole Electric’s strong credit rating and credit worthiness, Hart said.

“Just getting this saves our consumers millions of dollars over the life of the loan,” Hart said.

The Seminole Generating Station went into operation in Putnam County in 1984 and is on about 2,000 acres off U.S. 17 North. It employs 240 people in Putnam County, with an additional 30 anticipated when the new facility is operational. It provides power to more than 13 square miles in Putnam County through Clay Electric.

Construction of the new facility led to the hiring of more than 200 construction workers, though Hart said there may at times be 500 or more construction workers on-site depending that day’s work.

Putnam County Chamber of Commerce officials do not have a precise dollar figure to attach to the economic impact of those hundreds of construction workers. They noted their positive impact on accommodations tax revenues and retail spending.

“We certainly appreciate Seminole and all they do, especially in times like these,” Chamber President Dana Jones said. “This is a testament to their commitment to and faith in Putnam County.”