La Crosse-based Dairyland Power Cooperative, in partnership with Minnesota Power, is proposing to build a new $700 million fracked natural gas power plant in Superior, WI. The 625-megawatt plant, called the Nemadji Trail Energy Center (NTEC), would produce an expected 2.7 million tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of operating about half a million passenger vehicles for a year.
Since NTEC was first proposed in 2017, we have seen significant changes in the economic and energy landscapes. In 2019, an analysis by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) found that 90% of 88 gas plants proposed across the U.S., including NTEC, will end up costing more than if the utilities invested in wind, solar and energy efficiency instead. The average cost of producing a megawatt hour of electricity from large natural gas plants will become more expensive than a megawatt from solar installations and wind turbines within the next decade. If NTEC is built, RMI estimates it will be uneconomic to continue operating by 2035.
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The Driftless Region has been significantly impacted by the increased frequency and severity of flooding triggered by climate change, especially in rural areas served by the electric cooperatives supplied by Dairyland Power. We know that fossil fuel combustion is the largest single driver of climate change, and a brand-new fossil gas-burning power plant will just add to the looming climate crisis. Dairyland should invest in clean, renewable energy instead, because our communities can't take even more extreme weather events.