Wisconsin regulators gave Alliant Energy approval Thursday to build a 150-megawatt wind farm in northern Iowa that the utility says will help meet its renewable energy goals while saving customers money.
With a cost of about $255 million, the Kossuth Wind Project is expected to save ratepayers about $81 million over its 30-year lifespan, which the company said should help “stabilize” electric bills.
Madison-based Alliant estimates the Kossuth wind farm will produce about 616,000 megawatt-hours of electricity each year, enough to power about 70,000 average Wisconsin households. The project is designed to allow for a 100-megawatt expansion.
“Our customers look to us for sustainable energy solutions,” Alliant President John Larsen said in a written statement. “Investing in state-of-the-art wind generation continues our path to lower carbon emissions and furthers our commitment to provide reliable and affordable energy to our customers and communities.”
As a regulated utility, Alliant will be guaranteed a profit on the investment, the cost of which will be passed on to its Wisconsin customers.
But because wind energy has no fuel costs and the project will benefit from roughly $14 million a year in federal tax credits, Alliant estimates it will keep rates lower.
The project was not contested by consumer interest groups.
“Iowa wind is very cost-effective for customers,” said Tom Content, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, which represents residential and small business ratepayers. “We think that makes sense.”
Kossuth is one of six Alliant wind farms under development that will together add more than 1,200 megawatts of capacity to the company’s portfolio by 2020. It will be the third paid for by Wisconsin rates.
That’s nearly double the amount of wind capacity currently owned, although Alliant has contracts to buy electricity from several other wind farms with a combined capacity of about 600 megawatts.
This summer Alliant announced plans to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent and phase out coal-fired generation by 2050.
Alliant has shut down three coal-fired plants since 2015, but the utility hasn’t turned its back on fossil fuel. It continues to operate three coal plants with a combined 2,250-megawatt capacity and natural gas plants with more than 3,000 megawatts of capacity. A $700 million natural gas plant under construction near Beloit is expected to begin operation in 2020, adding another 725 megawatts of fossil fuel capacity.
Alliant serves about 960,000 electricity customers in Wisconsin and Iowa.