Utility closes coal facility amid transition to natural gas
BELOIT, Wis. (AP) – A Wisconsin-based utility has shut down one of its largest coal-fired generators as it makes progress on the construction of a $700 million natural gas plant.
Alliant Energy closed the 49-year-old facility in Sheboygan last week, The Wisconsin State Journal reported . It’s the third coal plant the utility has shuttered since 2015 as the company works to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Alliant Energy serves about 960,000 customers in Wisconsin and Iowa.
The utility will replace the facility with a combined-cycle plant at its Beloit campus. The West Riverside Energy Center will burn natural gas to turn turbines and use heat to create steam that will turn a generator. The plant will also feature a $10 million solar garden.
“It will be one of the most efficient plants in at least Wisconsin, if not the entire Midwest,” said Bob Newell, project manager for Alliant.
Unlike coal plants that can take days to start up, West Riverside can be up and running in about two hours, which makes it a good complement to renewable energy resources that make cheaper power but don’t constantly produce electricity, he said.
“That’s why we built this plant,” Newell said. “Flexibility.”
The new plant is scheduled to be operational in 2020.
The company plans to continue working to reduce carbon emissions despite President Donald Trump’s administration’s efforts to boost coal, said Alliant spokesman Scott Reigstad. Costs and pressure from investors are the main factors driving the efforts, he said.
“We have a long-term strategy,” Reigstad said. “We’ve developed that independent of any federal . rules. We’re just going to keep moving.”