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Dairyland Power completes purchase of RockGen plant in Cambridge

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RockGen Energy Center

Dairyland Power Cooperative has announced plans to buy the 503-megawatt RockGen Energy Center near Cambridge. The natural gas generator is used primarily to provide electricity during times of peak demand.

Dairyland Power Cooperative has bought the RockGen Energy Center natural gas generator in Cambridge.

Dairyland CEO Brent Ridge said the acquisition will ensure the La Crosse-based cooperative can continue meeting the needs of its member utilities, which serve about 500,000 customers in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois, with the closure of its 345-megawatt coal-fired plant in Genoa.

“The availability of this existing, low-cost and reliable facility in Wisconsin is both timely and a good strategic fit for our power supply portfolio,” Ridge said Wednesday in a statement announcing completion of the sale, which was approved in October by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The $670 million plant in Beloit is Wisconsin's newest gas-fired power plant and second largest.

Dairyland did not disclose how much it paid Starwood Energy Group for the 20-year-old plant, which burns gas in three combustion turbines to generate electricity — typically during times of peak demand.

Completed in 2001 after the Wisconsin Supreme Court denied a challenge from area residents concerned about its environmental impact, RockGen was one of two acquired by Starwood in 2019. It was updated last year to burn oil as a backup fuel.

The 503-megawatt plant generated enough electricity to power about 54,000 typical Wisconsin homes last year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration. That was down slightly from 2019, it’s peak year, when it emitted more than 280,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

Dairyland was one of the first Wisconsin utilities to embrace solar energy, partnering with member utilities to install more than 25 megawatts of capacity in 2015, though fossil fuels accounted for more than three-quarters of its generation portfolio last year.

The company is currently enmeshed in legal challenges over plans to build a $700 million natural gas generator in Superior in partnership with Minnesota Power.

The board has set a goal of cutting carbon emissions in half by 2030, but has not committed to the same level of decarbonization as the state’s largest investor-owned utilities, which plan to cut all carbon emissions.

Environmental reporter Chris Hubbuch's favorite stories of 2021

Stories are a bit like children when it comes to picking favorites. But then who has room in their wallet for pictures of 278 kids? So here are five that kind of stand out in my mind. I hope you enjoyed reading them as much as I did writing them. 


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