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Alliant's Sutherland Generating Station set to close

New natural gas plant would close current coal facility

November 15, 2012
By DAVID ALEXANDER - Staff Writer ( , Times-Republican

Should the Iowa Utilities Board give the green light to Alliant's proposed gas-fire plant, the company will close three of its coal plants, including the Marshalltown Sutherland Station, the company announced last week.

Alliant filed for regulatory approval with the Iowa Utilities Board Wednesday.

Ryan Stensland, a spokesperson for Alliant, said the company has always intended to close the plants once a more economical way to generate electricity was available. The construction of the new $750 million natural gas plant makes stations in Marshalltown, Dubuque and Sherburn, Minn. no longer necessary.

Article Photos

Alliant officials said the company will likely close three generating stations, including the Marshalltown Sutherland Station, shown here. The Sutherland Station, which will likely close in December 2014, generates approximately $1.4 million in property taxes years, while the proposed natural gas plant would bring in an estimated $1.7 million yearly.

"If you have a car and it has 200,000 miles on it and you need to take it to work, but it needs a new engine at that point you ask yourself 'Do I make the investment in a new car or do I put the money into replacing that engine?'" Stensland said. "We need to move away from those older, less efficient stations."

Converting the coal-burning plants into natural gas provided a temporary solution, Stensland said, but once the new plant comes online, they will no longer fit into Alliant's plan to lower emissions.

Increased environmental regulations make plants like the Sutherland Station no longer viable, he said.

Alliant paid just over $2.65 million in property taxes since the start of the current fiscal year, according to the Marshall County Treasurer's records. Alliant estimates that the Sutherland Station accounts for roughly $1.4 million of that tax revenue.

The new plant would generate just over $1.7 million in property taxes annually, Alliant officials previously said, netting an increase of about $300,000 in property taxes each year.

Alliant will give the 23 employees at the Sutherland station and the 12 employees at the Dubuque operation the opportunity to fill the 20 to 25 positions at the new plant when those plants close in December 2014.

Those employees would begin training at the new station during the final leg of construction in late 2016. The new plant is slated to begin operation in the second quarter of 2017. Making the move will give those employees a good feel for the final stages and details of where they will be working, Stensland said.

"That way, they literally know the number of nuts and bolts that are in a piece of equipment that they are running," he said.

Shutting down the three stations would retire 400 megawatts of energy production, offset by the 600 megawatt production of the new plant.

Stensland stressed that the Sutherland Station's closing is unrelated to company's failed attempt to build a new coal plant in 2009.

Filings for the plant can be found on Iowa Utilities Board's electronic filing system at The docket numbers are GCU-2012-0001 and RPU-2012-0003.



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