FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) - In just seven days, Fort Lauderdale will lose a familiar part of the skyline.
Florida Power and Light will demolish the four, 350 feet tall, red-and-white stacks that have stood at the Port Everglades power plant for the last fifty years.
It will be replaced by a clean energy center that will run on low cost natural gas to power four-and-a-half million customers.
The existing plant ran mainly on imported oil and emitted sulfur dioxide and fine particulate matter.
"Natural gas is much cleaner burning, it will reduce emissions by 90 percent and carbon dioxide by 50 percent," says plant manager Rudy Sanchez.
Added spokeswoman Marie Bertot, "It uses 35 percent less fuel and produces more electricity that helps keep our customer's bills low and every dollar we save is passed onto our customers."
Sanchez who has been with the company for thirty years says many employees look at the demolition with mixed emotions.
"I myself was four when this was built," said Sanchez. "I hardly expected to be the plant manager many years later. Most of our employees are reminiscing the good times. Some are getting a bolt or a piece of pipe as a remembrance of what it looked like."
While the demolition of the stacks is seen as a positive move, some say FPL needs to be doing more for the environment.
"I think the benefits of natural gas are highly over estimated and we need to move to solar what we have in abundance here in South Florida," says Matthew Schwartz of the Broward chapter of the Sierra Club.
Schwartz who also is executive director of the South Florida Wildlands Association is critical of the electric company.
"Burning natural gas may produce less CO2 than coal or oil but it produces a lot of CO2," said Schwartz. "FPL is expanding the Turkey Point plant. Spent rods are piling up on the shores of Biscayne Bay and there is no where to put them. They want to run 3 power lines across the east side of Everglades National Park acquired to protect the Everglades. We get that people come home from work they want to switch on the electricity and for most of us that's what is important. But there's more to it."
FPL said when up and running in 2016 the new energy center will generate up to 1,280 megawatts of power, or enough electricity for about 260,000 FPL customers. The project will use the same land footprint and existing infrastructure, including electric transmission facilities and cooling water system which will save on costs.
The company estimates that construction of the new plant will create 650 direct jobs at its peak and more than a thousand indirect jobs.
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