Alliant Energy to Close Iowa Nuclear Plant for More Wind. Bad for Ratepayers, Bad for the Environment

Alliant Energy, the electric company in Iowa that wants to increase electricity costs for its consumers by $240 per year to add more wind to their grid, now wants to shut down their existing nuclear plant, which produces electricity with no carbon dioxide emissions, so they can repower existing wind turbines add more wind.

According to an article from S&P Global Platts:

A spokesman for the Iowa utility subsidiary said Monday that Interstate Power and Light currently meets 25% of its customer demand in the state through an off-take agreement with NextEra Energy Resources, which owns the majority interest in the 615 MW nuclear facility and controls 430 net MW from the 44-year old plant.

NextEra Energy Resources also owns nine wind farms with multiple phases in wind-farm-heavy Iowa, with combined capacity of more than 1,000 MW. As part of its deal with IPL, NextEra Energy Resources will supply power from four repowered Iowa wind farms that will have about 340 MW of capacity once the $250 million repowerings are complete.

This would be funny if it weren’t such a naked cash grab by the utility. Wind is inherently unreliable, so the move will undoubtedly lead to higher utilization of natural gas, as well as an increase in Alliant’s guaranteed profits. Unfortunately, Iowa customers, like those in Minnesota, are forced to buy their electricity from the utility company in their service area.

It is also worth noting that Alliant will be replacing only 615 MW of nuclear with more than 1,449 MW of wind generation capacity. This is typical, because the wind only blows 35.8 percent of the time in Iowa. In contrast, the capacity factor for nuclear in Iowa is 99 percent. That means it will take about three times as many wind turbines to equal the electricity output of a single nuclear plant.

Of course, CO2 emissions will increase, as well, because Alliant will need to use more natural gas to provide electricity when the wind isn’t blowing. This is just one more line of evidence that wind turbines are bad for ratepayers, and also bad for the environment.