Houston — Alliant Energy said Tuesday it will buy six solar projects from four developers that will have combined capacity of 675 MW and be located in rural Wisconsin.
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The acquisitions, expected to cost $900 million, are the first phase of a previously announced 1,000-MW solar build-out by 2023, the Madison-based utility holding company said in a statement. It said it has filed a Certificate of Authority application with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin to "acquire and advance" the six projects.
"The transition to solar energy is driven by changing economics for generation, customer sustainability goals, improvements in renewable technology and the company's commitment to sustainable practices," Alliant said.
It noted that the turn to solar, along with the recently announced retirement by the end of 2022 of the coal-fired Edgewater Generating Station Unit 5 in Sheboygan "furthers Alliant's goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled generation by 40%."
The last remaining Edgewater coal-fired unit has a capacity of 380 MW.
"We currently have about 80 employees at Edgewater and nearly half will be retirement eligible when the facility closes," said Cindy Tomlinson, an Alliant spokeswoman. "Retiring Edgewater before the end of 2022 helps us avoid an estimated $200 million in near-term costs. This cost avoidance is critical for our customers and future rates."
On May 15, Alliant brought online the 730-MW West Riverside Energy Center, a natural gas-fired combined-cycle plant in Beloit.
The $660 million CCGT was built "with an eye toward complementing the company's growing number of solar and wind facilities," Alliant said. "Because it leverages combined-cycle technology, its power output can adjust up and down quickly to fit with the intermittent nature of renewable resources."
According to Alliant's 2019 Environmental, Social and Governance Sustainability Performance Report, by 2030 the company that operates in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator territory wants to see renewables over 30% of its energy mix and carbon dioxide emissions from fossil-fueled generation reduced by 40%. By 2050 it hopes to see all coal-fired generation eliminated and CO2 emissions from fossil-fueled generation reduced by 80%.
SIX PROJECTS, FOUR DEVELOPERS
According to Jeff Ripp, director of regulatory strategy at Alliant Energy, the company has executed purchase and sale agreements with each solar developer that will not close until all regulatory approvals have been received.
"We currently expect to invest approximately $900 million to acquire and construct this 675 MW of solar," Ripp said. "We expect these projects to be financed with 35-40% by a tax equity partner and the remainder by our Wisconsin utility. We are expecting to place 425 MW in service in 2022, with the remaining 250 MW to be placed in-service in 2023."
None of the projects are yet under construction "at this point," he added.
"We are proposing to own and operate each of the solar projects through one or more tax equity partnerships," Ripp said. "We would expect to purchase the tax equity partner's interests in the projects within ten years of operation, and then convert to a traditional ownership structure for the remainder of the useful life of the projects."
The largest of the six solar projects that will be "acquired and advanced" by Alliant is the 200-MW Grant County facility whose developer is NextEra Energy Resources. The facility will be located in the southwestern part of the state not far from the border with Iowa.
Alliant's plan includes buying two 150-MW facilities, one from New York-based developer Ranger Power and one from Savion. These facilities will be located in Sheboygan County in the eastern part of Wisconsin and in Wood County in the central part of the state, respectively.
Based in Kansas City, Missouri, Savion was formed in 2019 when Macquarie's Green Investment Group acquired the solar and energy storage unit of Tradewind Energy.
Alliant is also acquiring Savion's 50-MW project slated for Richland County, as well as Geronimo Energy's 50-MW project to be located in Rock County.
Geronimo entered into a strategic partnership with Enel Green Power in 2009, but was acquired for $100 million by National Grid in July 2019. Once operational, the energy from the projects will make Alliant "the largest owner-operator of solar in Wisconsin.," it said Tuesday.