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West Riverside Energy Center as it neared completion in January. At the time, Alliant Energy officials said they hoped to have the plant up and running by the end of February. The plant was brought online Thursday, officials said.

TOWN OF BELOIT

A power plant capable of powering 550,000 homes probably doesn’t have an on-off switch or a button that says, “go.”

But on Friday, Alliant Energy announced that its West Riverside Energy Center was now online. It is capable of generating 730 megawatts of energy.

The switch was actually flipped late Thursday, Alliant spokesman Scott Reigstad said.

The plant wasn’t built to increase capacity. Instead, it replaces coal-fired facilities and a few of the older natural gas plants.

“It’s one of the most efficient plants in the country,” Reigstad said.

Think of it like upgrading an appliance. A new freezer with all the latest technology will cost much less to run than the one that has been in the garage for 40 years.

The plant will provide local utility shared revenues of more than $3 million annually, according to a news release from Alliant.

Utility companies don’t pay property taxes in the traditional way. Instead, they pay a lump sum to the state. The state then shares that revenue with the locations where the utilities are located.

The beneficiaries of the additional shared revenue will be the town of Beloit and Rock County, Reigstad said.

The project cost $660 million and generated 1,000 jobs during construction, according to the news release.

Alliant has a growing number of wind and solar facilities. The West Riverside plant “leverages combined-cycle technology” and can adjust its power output quickly to fill the gaps from the “intermittent nature of renewable resources.”

The next step for the West Riverside plant will be construction of a integrated solar facility next to the to the natural gas generating station. The West Riverside “solar garden” will break ground soon, and the company hopes to have it completed by the end of the year, the news release said.

The 6-megawatt solar field will increase the main plant’s the sustainability and efficiency of the West Riverside Energy Center,” the news release said.

Construction started in spring 2017 after Alliant received approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

In January 2020, Alliant officials said they hoped to have the plant operational in February, but the project hit a snag when well water was used for testing steam pipes.

“Through a great team effort, the project came in under budget and online in time for increased summer demand,” project manager Bob Newell said in a news release.

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