A year after FPL demolished its 1960s oil-fired power plant at Port Everglades, the new $1 billion-plus, natural-gas plant rising at the site is on track to be operational in 2016..

One year after demolishing its 1960s oil-fired plant at Port Everglades known for its red-striped stacks, Florida Power & Light Co. has cleared away the debris and completed about 10 percent of its new $1.2 billion plant that will be fueled by cleaner and cheaper natural gas.

On Tuesday, about 400 workers were busy at the massive construction site. Some were digging to lay work on drains. Others ran heavy equipment to move massive panels for the steam-turbine system. And still others placed rebar in grids that will be become part of concrete foundations.

FPL plans to open the high-tech plant in 2016, producing up to 1,277 megawatts of electricity, or enough power for some 260,000 households. That's a bit more power than the older facility.

But the new plant will use 35 percent less fuel, saving millions yearly in fuel costs. It also will be cleaner, producing 90 percent less air emissions and about half the carbon dioxide, officials said.

"We're on schedule," construction director Tom Young said Tuesday at the site. "This project is like parking your old car that got 10 miles per gallon and driving a new one that gets 50 miles per gallon."

For FPL, the Broward County plant is the third of its kind after $1 billion-plus ventures at Cape Canaveral and Riviera Beach. That previous experience helps, project manager Dennis Donhaue said.

"There are lessons learned, like how all the equipment goes together," Donahue said. "You know which pieces to place in first, second and third to create an efficient process, so you don't have to move the machinery around. And for scheduling, you make sure you get the right things in the right order."

A veteran in plant construction, Donahue marvels how quickly this constriction will be done. He recalls in the 1980s that building a smaller, 750-megawatt plant took five years. This bigger plant will take only two years.

"Everything now is a lot more modularized," Donahue said. Many large parts come pre-assembled nowadays, when decades back, even turbines were broken down into small pieces and had to be mounted together from scratch, he said, "kind of like an erector set."

Today's plants also use different materials, such as lightweight plastic pipes laid underground instead of heavy iron ones that were tougher to transport and lasted only half as long, officials said.

The scale of materials needed is enormous. The project will use 30,000 cubic yards of concrete, enough to fill 200 of the shipping industry's 40-foot containers, Young said.

The concrete and steel recycled from last year's July 16 demolition weighed about 60 tons. It took six months to clean up that rubble.

And that tonnage pales next to the 1,500 tons of structural steel needed for the plant, Young said.

At peak construction next spring, more than 900 people will be working at the site.

But once the plant starts up, most operations will be computerized, requiring little staff. "They will run this job with maybe six or seven operators a shift," less than half the number in the older plant, said Young.

The new emissions towers also will be more compact: just 149 feet tall, or less than half the 340-foot height of the candy-striped stacks that long served as a Fort Lauderdale landmark.

dhemlock@sunsentinel.com, 305-810-5009