Capital Clicks

Alliant Energy to close Lansing plant, convert Burlington facility to gas, add solar

By: - October 29, 2020 12:23 pm

School House Apartments in Fort Madison has solar panels. (Photo courtesy of the Iowa Environmental Council)

Alliant Energy on Thursday announced it will close its Lansing coal plant and convert its Burlington coal plant to natural gas.

The investor-owned utility said it will replace the power with a 400-megawatt solar installation by 2023 and a 100 megawatts in scattered smaller solar installations by 2026. The Burlington plant will be converted to natural gas by 2021.

Three major environmental organizations, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Iowa Environmental Council and Sierra Club, praised the move. All three have pushed Iowa’s utilities to shift from coal-fired plants to renewable energy sources to help fight climate change. While natural gas is a fossil fuel, burning it releases smaller amounts of greenhouse gases than using coal.

“Investing in renewable energy, like wind and solar, benefits our customers, the communities we serve and the environment,” Alliant Energy chairman, president and CEO John Larsen said in a statement. The utility will get nearly 50% of its power from renewables when the solar power comes online, he added.

Alliant already has nearly 1,300 megawatts of wind power in Dubuque, Marshalltown and Cedar Rapids.

The Iowa Environmental Council welcomed the news.

“As Iowans, and the nation, begin to engage in the real and urgent discussions on how to move away from carbon-based energy, we are celebrating the news that we will enjoy cleaner, healthier air and water with these generation changes,” Kerri Johannsen, the group’s energy program director, said in a statement.

Josh Mandelbaum, senior attorney for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said Alliant’s move is part of a voluntary planning process agreed to after environmental groups intervened in the utility’s rate case last year. “Retiring the uneconomic Lansing plant and the commitment to adding solar will benefit consumers and the environment,” Mandelbaum said in a statement.

The Sierra Club has been running a “Beyond Coal” program. “Today we congratulate Alliant Energy on making a significant shift from coal to clean energy that will deliver $300 million in savings to customers,” Elizabeth Katt Reinders, deputy director of the program, said in a statement.

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Perry Beeman
Perry Beeman

Perry Beeman has nearly 40 years of experience in Iowa journalism and has won national awards for environmental and business writing. He has written for The Des Moines Register and the Business Record, where he also served as managing editor. He also is former editorial director of Grinnell College. He co-authored the recently published book, "The $80 Billion Gamble," which details the lottery-rigging case of Eddie Tipton.