Utilities axe plans for Big Stone II coal plant

Posted on November 3, 2009. Filed under: Coal, Generation Plants |

From an article by Leslie Brooks Suzukamo in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Developers of the controversial Big Stone II power plant in Milbank, S.D., said Monday they will not build the $1.6 billion coal-fired project, ending a four-year battle between utilities and environmentalists over a significant portion of Minnesota’s energy future.

About half of the plant’s 500 megawatts to 600 megawatts of power – enough to supply about 580,000 homes – would have come to Minnesota. But now the regional utilities that backed the plant must go back to the drawing board to find other sources of energy for the decades ahead.

The plant had made it through a series of environmental and other regulatory hurdles, only to stumble because of the recession and uncertainty about federal climate-change regulations that scared off banks and other potential partners.

The decision to kill the Big Stone II proposal also could delay transmission projects in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, some of which already had been approved by regulators. . . .

The [utilities] now are looking at some combination of building natural gas plants, ramping up energy efficiency programs and more renewable energy like wind, said Bill Radio, spokesman for Missouri River Energy Services. The Sioux Falls, S.D., utility had been counting on Big Stone II for about 150 megawatts of power, of which half would go to two dozen towns in western Minnesota.

The developers maintained Monday that Big Stone II remained the least costly way to meet growing energy demand, but renewable energy advocates said the decision shows it was actually coal power that is more costly.

Since Big Stone II was proposed, 108 out of 150 proposed coal plants in the United States have been withdrawn, blocked or abandoned by utilities, according to the Sierra Club.

“They were trying to build a coal-fired power plant in the teeth of a carbon-restrained world, and that was too costly and too risky,” said Michael Noble, executive director of Fresh Energy, an environmental group in St. Paul. “What this (decision) should tell you more than anything is that the era of coal-fired power plants is over.”


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One Response to “Utilities axe plans for Big Stone II coal plant”

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RENEW Wisconsin opposed Alliant’s plan to build a coal-fired plant at Cassivlle:

One reservation we have this proposal is the idea of marrying a low-grade biomass fuel to a very expensive new power station with a capacity cost of about $4,000/kW. There are less expensive avenues for acquiring renewable energy, such as windpower, that have lower capital costs and zero fuel costs. There are also less expensive venues for burning biomass for electricity, such as the soon-to-be-retrofitted E. J. Stoneman plant or Xcel’s Bay Front 3 unit. Unlike building a new 300 MW coal plant, retrofitting those power stations to burn biomass fuel won’t require a capital investment in excess of $1 billion. It is a far more efficient use of ratepayer dollars to wed biomass fuel with smaller power stations (<50 MW) than with a larger and very expensive brand-new power plant. — http://renewwisconsinblog.org/2008/08/26/renew-files-testimony-on-alliants-cassville-plant

RENEW supported Xcel’s plan to convert its Bay front coal plant to biomass:

We note the following public policy objectives that would be advanced if the proposal submitted by Northern States Power Corporation (“NSPW”) were approved. These objectives include:
1) Meeting Wisconsin’s current Renewable Energy Standard;
2) Eliminating a source of coal-fired power from its system;
3) Using a locally available renewable energy resource;
4) Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and other gaseous pollutants;
5) Maintaining a strong generation source in northern Wisconsin; and
6) Investing Wisconsin capital in a renewable energy generating facility power plant within its borders. — http://renewwisconsinblog.org/2009/07/21/renew-testimony-supports-excels-conversion-of-generation-plant-to-wood

The utilities planning to build coal-fired Big Stone II killed the project:

“We have a purchased power agreement through 2015 that was to bridge us to Big Stone II going online; we still have that agreement in place,” Dave Goodin, president and CEO of Montana-Dakota, said in the release.
“We will now look at other supply options that are reliable and cost-beneficial for our customers. We have plans to expand our wind production by 30 megawatts in 2010 and will review other generation options,” Goodin said. — href=”http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN0349229220091103

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