Town of Beloit Alliant power plant expansion (copy)

In this October 2017 file photo, Alliant Energy continues constructing a second gas-fired power plant in the town of Beloit. The company wants the town to grant it a conditional-use permit so it can use a herd of goats to eradicate invasive weeds on the southeastern part of the property.

TOWN OF BELOIT

If the town of Beloit gives its blessing, Alliant Energy plans to hire a herd of goats to munch on buckthorn, garlic mustard and other invasive plants on a 10-acre plot at Alliant’s Riverside Energy Center.

Bob Newell, project manager for Alliant Energy and Wisconsin Power and Light’s West Riverside Energy Center expansion, said Alliant seeks a conditional-use permit allowing a contractor to bring in 80 to 100 goats to graze a weedy area on the property’s southeast end off South Walters Road.

Newell said the weed-eating goats would graze two or three times a year, for a week or two at a time, until all noxious and invasive plants are eradicated.

An environmental manager for the expansion project suggested the unorthodox plan as an environmentally friendly, efficient way to clear weeds from a wetland and river area that’s not friendly to weed-control equipment.

The manager “found an article about a firm that has goats that you rent. The goats come in and eat all of the noxious weeds and, of course, everything else, other remaining plants,” Newell said. “Other people have been using this technique as well, where instead of spraying weed killer and other harmful chemicals, they use a herd of 80 to 100 goats.”

The plan requires an amendment to an existing conditional-use permit for the Alliant property, which is zoned for industrial use, not grazing animals.

The town’s plan commission will consider the application Sept. 12, but the plan requires town board approval.

Newell said a local contractor could bring in the goats by late September or early October.

He was unable to name the contractor, but he said the company would place temporary electric fencing around the grazing area to keep the goats out of the wetlands and the river. The grazing area is removed from Alliant’s power plant operations as well as the expansion area.

Newell said goats’ biology makes them innate weed warriors.

“Goats are a great application for this work because they have flat teeth,” he said. “They grind up the weed seed, and they actually digest it. There are no seeds that are excreted (in the manure). That protects against regrowing of the weeds.”

According to Alliant’s conditional-use application, goats trample their own manure into the ground as they graze, which makes it less likely that manure would run off into the wetland and river.

The plant’s Capricorn workforce would be temporary.

Newell said the goats would be brought back three or four times a year until weeds in the grazing paddocks are fully cleared and Alliant can start seeding native plants and grasses.

He said research indicates the goat herd could knock out the weeds in about a year—around the time Alliant begins to ramp up operations at its expanded power plant.

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