Troubles for New Wisconsin Coal-Fired Plant
Late last month, an enormous new coal plant in Wisconsin began producing electricity – enough to power a million homes.
The We Energies Oak Creek plant, a $2.3-billion facility, was approved years go, when the state’s electricity demand was much higher. Now its power is no longer needed, even according to state regulators.
The plant was originally expected to cost $2.19 billion, but weather delays and other factors resulted in a cost overrun of at least $122 million, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. (The final figures won’t be certain until next year.) Now the state’s Public Service Commission, a three-member, governor-appointed group, will consider with how much of that should be repaid by customers, who already have seen their average monthly bill rise 41% since 2005, when construction on the Oak Creek plant began.
And that’s not the end of Oak Creek’s troubles; We Energies has already settled a case having to do with its water system’s damaging impacts on surrounding lakes. “If that plant were built today, it wouldn’t be able to use the water cooling system it has,” says Jennifer Feyerherm, director of the Sierra Club’s Wisconsin Clean Energy Campaign. After filing a complaint, they have now settled with We Energies; the company will pay $5 million a year for 20 years to a non-profit organization set up to help mitigate the damage from the water cooling system, and to install 15 MGW of solar power and 15 MGW of biomass capability in the state.
“When they proposed the plant, we said it would be a bad investment, and that’s what they’re finding out,” Feyerherm says.
We Energies expects to bring the second of Oak Creek’s two boilers online later this year.