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Montana-Dakota Utilities to retire three older coal-fired power units

Highlights

Lewis & Clark station to retire by end of 2020

Heskett plant to close by 2021

Louisville, Kentucky — Montana-Dakota Utilities plans to retire three coal-fired power units with a combined capacity of 144 MW and replace them with a 88-MW natural gas-fired peaking unit and market purchases, the company said Wednesday.

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The two-unit Heskett station, totaling 100 MW of capacity and located near Mandan, North Dakota, is expected to close around the end of 2021.

The 44-MW Lewis & Clark station near Sidney, Montana, is targeted for retirement by the end of 2020.

"The plants have served our customers well, providing low-cost energy for many years, operating roughly twice as long as expected when they were constructed in the mid-1950s and early 1960s," MDU CEO Nicole Kivisto said in a statement. "The age of the plants, low-cost competition on the market and the ongoing cost to operate the plants all have contributed to the plants being too expensive to operate much longer."

The first coal unit at Heskett came online in 1954 and the second unit in 1963. Lewis & Clark entered service in 1958.

The planned retirements continue the trend by US electric utilities of shuttering older and smaller coal plants increasingly unable to compete against subsidized renewables and lower-cost gas-fired units.

Heskett burns about 500,000 st of lignite annually and Lewis & Clark about 300,000 st of lignite annually, all supplied by Westmoreland Coal mines in the region.

The gas-fired unit will be built near the location of the Heskett plant and is scheduled to come online in 2023, according to the company.

-- Bob Matyi, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, newsdesk@spglobal.com

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