Thursday, March 05, 2009

Alliant Drops Plans for Marshalltown Coal Plant

Alliant Energy announced this morning they are dropping plans to build a $1.8 billion coal-fired power plant in Marshalltown.

From the Marshalltown Times-Republican...

The news came several weeks after a decision by the Iowa Utilities Board, which did not approve a 12.5 percent return on investment, instead allowing the company only to realize a 10-percent return on investment, had the plant been built.

"Had we received what we had asked for, I think we would still be looking at a way to get to yes," said Tom Aller, president of IPL.

Aller mentioned several factors as reasons why the plans for the plant were canceled. In addition to the rate decision from the IUB, he said an elongated air quality permit process, along with pending litigation by outside groups, also played roles. Further, he said the national climate, with talk of carbon penalties and banning coal plants, further destabilized the situation.

According to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, the coal-fired power plant was to use the highest available technology.
The plant was proposed by the utility as a coal-burning power plant that would use newer, more efficient technology and generate some of its power by burning renewable switchgrass or other biomass. The Iowa Utilities Board eventually stipulated that the plant be fueled 10 percent by biomass, and that the company also build 1,100 megawatts of wind energy by 2028.
However, the plant still lacked the ability capture carbon, mercury, and other fine particle matter and this drew concerns from many around the state....
Opponents of the plant included the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate, which said it would drastically increase customer bills, and a coalition of groups advocating more green solutions to the state's energy needs. They included Waterloo-based Community Energy Solutions, Cedar Rapids-based Plains Justice, the Iowa Chapter of the Sierra Club and Interfaith Power & Light.
Proponents of the plant cited an increase in jobs, though many would temporary jobs during construction of the plant.
The power plant had strong support in Marshalltown, where it would have provided $350 million in construction payroll and 85 permanent jobs, with annual payroll of $8.5 million.
Those are tough to lose during these tough economic times, but the external costs of the plant on increased power rates, on public health, and on the environment have seemed to outweigh any short term gain.


Ben said...

I'm not insensitive to the environmental impacts of the coal plant. I don't buy the "clean coal" propoganda, though I do think that capturing fine particulates would probably be doable. I would also point out that there would have been a biomass and wind energy component to the propossed plant, not to mention it would have been vastly more efficient then the old coal plant currently in Marshalltown.

After doing a cost/benefit analysis, what angers me about Marshalltown loosing the plant is that Alliant will just build it somewhere else. All that the IUB and DNR have done is ensure that some other town in some other state will get the $1.8 billion dollar boost to their economy during this recession. Given the economic situation, don't kid yourself into thinking that there won't be a community and state more then happy to welcome a $1.8 billion project. All the environmental effects will happen anyway, it's just that some other town will reap the positives.

It's a bad day for Marshalltown.

noneed4thneed said...

I don't think Alliant will be able to just pick up and build somewhere else. Not sure of the stat exactly, but something like 55 coal plants have been denied nation wide since 2005. Alliant had a plant denied in Wisconsin last fall.

With the economy, uncertainty about federal regulation, and a push for renewable energy it just is not a good time to be investing billions in 20th century technology.

MrScarletW said...

This seems to be a controversial and complex issue. While I'm sad to see Marshalltown miss out on a gigantic economic boost. I am glad that "clean coal" has been exposed, and according to "Ben" above, he seems not to have bought into that argument. My hope is that, as our energy demands increase we make more than a 10% commitment to bio/wind energy combinations to fuel our needs. I'm surprised at the clout of the environmental movement in this state and their organization. Perhaps people should respect their organizational strength. I sure do now.

Ben said...

I would feel a whole lot better about a moritorium on "20th century technologies" like coal fired plants if anyone could point me to a "21st century technology" that is "shovel ready" to begin meeting our energy needs. I'm -all- for renewable fuels taking the place of fossil fuels but I think everyone can agree that we're just not there yet.

Until research and econimics met up and clean energy can assume the place on the grid that everyone wants it too, it doesn't do smaller communities like Marshalltown any good to cut off our nose to spite our face.

RF said...


There is plenty to replace the coal plant, off the shelf technology to boot. First of all, according to a study funded by Alliant itself, they have more energy efficiency potential to capture than the Marshalltown plant would have generated. Plus efficiency is a lot cheaper. And if and when we do need more generating capacity, how about well proven, biomass-driven combined heat and power applications at our numerous ethanol plants? Lots of generating potential there. And if ethanol plants are to be able to comply with future low carbon fuel standards, they will need to get rid of their fossil fuel power anyways. This would also solve the problem rural coops keep whining about, claiming they need a coal plant to power all those "renewable" fuel facilities. If the REC's got their heads out of their asses, they could turn this challenge into a great opportunity for themselves and their farmer members.

Overall, a great day for Iowa. A coal plant would have been an extremely risky investment for Iowa ratepayers.