WEC Energies expected to replace coal plant with 350 MW of solar

Yesterday, WEC Energy Group, the parent company of Wisconsin utility We Energies, announced plans to close the 1,200 MW Pleasant Prairie (Wisconsin) coal plant, after announcing plans to build 350 MW of solar power by 2020.

Reports say We Energies has been moving its coal-fueled plants to natural gas for the past few years in an attempt to reach its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030. A company spokesperson confirmed to multiple outlets its plans to build a 350 MW of solar in the state by 2020 but had no specific details on what, if any, stage those plans had reached.

Clean Wisconsin, an environmental group, applauded the decision in a press release, saying it shows the Wisconsin utility is moving away from a fossil-fueled past into a solar-powered future.

“This is a great step for WPS and WE Energies’ from coal and toward solar power, and it is a big win for Wisconsin,” Clean Wisconsin said in the release. “They are recognizing that the future of energy is clean, local, and renewable. As the largest investment of clean energy in our state, this will create local jobs and bolster our economy while safeguarding public health and sustaining clean air and natural resources.”

Multiple reports say the company told the 158 Pleasant Prairie plant employees about the planned closure yesterday, telling them that the company expects to find positions for them in other power plants within the utility’s Wisconsin service area.

The Pleasant Prairie facility is made up of two units, one that is 37 years old and one that is 32 years old. Both had been retrofitted with equipment to reduce emissions, but the company decided making further investments in the aging facilities – particularly when other, less expensive alternatives were available – made little financial sense.

This follows on the closure of large numbers of coal plants over the last decade. Such closures have continue this year, despite President Trump’s promise to save the industry, and attempts to craft policies to subsidize coal and nuclear power by Trump appointees at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.