TOWN OF BELOIT

Construction on Alliant Energy’s new natural-gas-fueled power plant has reached the halfway mark, and the plant is expected to save consumers money when it becomes fully operational in 2020.

Bob Newell, the plant’s project manager, said during a press event Thursday morning that construction on the West Riverside Energy Center is “right on schedule.”

The 730-megawatt natural-gas-fueled plant will sprawl across a 315-acre parcel in the town of Beloit. It will be part of Alliant’s Rock River Energy Campus that includes the Rock River Generating Station and Beloit South Area Operations Center.

Alliant plans to have its natural gas facility operating commercially by the end of 2019, Newell said. The company will construct a four- to five-megawatt solar garden next to the facility by summer 2020.

By burning natural gas instead of coal, the plant will emit half the amount of carbon dioxide, Newell said. It will emit about two-thirds less nitrogen and almost eliminate sulfur and mercury emissions, he said.

Energy produced by the solar garden will offset auxiliary power to the natural gas facility, meaning most of the power generated will go to consumers, Newell said.

Alliant originally planned for a one- to two-megawatt solar garden, but it was able to increase that because costs for solar energy equipment have decreased, Newell said.

The company will invest $10 million of the project’s $700 million price tag into solar energy, he said.

In a 2016 story in The Gazette, Alliant representatives estimated the plant would serve 535,000 homes and employ 20 full-time workers.

Newell said Thursday the plant will serve 550,000 homes and employ 25 people full time.

Alliant Energy customers likely will save money with the new plant because the price of natural gas is lower than the price of coal, and production will be twice as efficient, Newell said.

The company in May announced a rate freeze for Wisconsin customers that will last through 2020, when the plant is expected to be finished, according to a news release.

The plant will generate $3 million annually in utility shared revenue for the town and Rock County, according to the release.

Under the sharing agreement, the county receives two-thirds of the revenue from Alliant’s existing plant and the town receives one-third.

If the state’s Incorporation Review Board and voters approve a petition to allow the town to incorporate as the village of Riverside, the revenue sharing arrangement would flip, with two-thirds going to the village and one-third to the county, The Gazette has reported.

Shared revenue has been a contentious talking point, and the Rock County Board and city of Beloit have both opposed the town’s potential incorporation.

Alliant representatives said Thursday that they will not get involved in the debate over shared revenue.

Reporter - Milton, Edgerton, Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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