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Utility closes coal plant amid transition to natural gas

BELOIT, Wis. (AP) — A Wisconsin 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 plant in Sheboygan last week, The Wisconsin State Journal reported. It’s the third coal plant the utility has shut down 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 plant 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 produce steam that will turn a generator. The plant will also have 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 begin running in 2020.

The company plans to continue working to reduce carbon emissions despite President Donald Trump’s administration’s attempts to boost coal, said the Alliant spokesman Scott Reigstad. Costs and pressure from investors are the main reasons for the work, 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.”

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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