Another Coal-fired Plant Will Close in Wisconsin

WEC Energy Group continues to move away from coal-fired power in its portfolio. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based utility in November gave WEC investors more details about the plan for Wisconsin Public Service (WPS), a WEC subsidiary, to close the Pulliam Power Plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, as early as next fall.

WEC subsidiary We Energies last week said it will close its coal-fired Pleasant Prairie plant in the second quarter of 2018. WEC also in 2016 signed an agreement to replace coal units at the its Presque Isle plant in Michigan with natural gas-fired generation; Michigan regulators approved that plan in October of this year. That plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is operated by WEC subsidiary Upper Michigan Energy Resources.

Plans for the Pulliam plant’s eventual closure were first announced in October 2016, according to Matt Cullen, a spokesman for WPS. The plant began service in 1927, and at one time had eight coal-fired generating units; it operates two today. The plant is located at the mouth of the Fox River in Green Bay. The plant also includes a natural gas-fired peaker unit that has operated intermittently since 2003.

Cullen in a December 3 email to POWER said “once the two remaining coal-fired units at the Pulliam Power Plant are retired, we will be retiring 200 MW of coal-fired generation.” Cullen earlier had said that the plant’s closure “is part of our parent company WEC Energy Group’s overall efforts to reshape its generation fleet for a clean, reliable energy future. Natural gas prices have been sustainably low. We’ve also had reduced costs, a dramatic reduction in cost, for renewable generation such as utility-scale solar and wind energy … [and] there’s been limited to no growth in electricity demand by customers.”

Figure 1. The Pulliam Power Plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is home to nesting peregrine falcons. The plant is slated for retirement as soon as fall of 2018; officials have said they will work to ensure the safe relocation of the nesting birds. Courtesy: Wisconsin Public Service

Figure 1. The Pulliam Power Plant in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is home to nesting peregrine falcons. The plant is slated for retirement as soon as fall of 2018; officials have said they will work to ensure the safe relocation of the nesting birds. Courtesy: Wisconsin Public Service

The Pulliam plant’s location has meant it’s home to wildlife, including eagles and falcons. Peregrine falcons (Figure 1) have nested at the plant since 1998; WPS officials have said they will work with a falcon expert to ensure a safe relocation of nesting boxes.

WEC in its recent third-quarter earnings report said net income for 3Q2017 was $215.4 million, compared to $217 million for 3Q2016. The company said retail deliveries of electricity were down 2.5% year-over-year, and residential electricity demand fell by 4.6% year-over-year.

Gale Klappa, WEC’s chairman and interim CEO, in discussing those financial results said “Moving forward, we will continue to gain efficiencies across our generating fleet and our seven operating utilities.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).