Large Solar, Storage Project Planned at Former Nuclear Power Site

Alliant Energy has announced its plan for a solar energy and storage facility at the site of the former Duane Arnold nuclear power plant near Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The project when complete would position Alliant as the largest combined solar and storage operator in the state, and is part of Alliant’s plan to expand its power generation from renewable resources.

Alliant in a Nov. 2 filing with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) outlined details for the first part of a proposed 400 MW of solar power generation. The utility said it would initially acquire 200 MW of solar energy and 75 MW of battery energy storage from Phase I and II of the Duane Arnold Solar Project, an installation being developed by subsidiaries of NextEra Energy Resources. 

Today’s announcement is part of Alliant’s Iowa Clean Energy Blueprint. The completed Duane Arnold project, expected to be fully operational by year-end 2024, would be owned and operated by Alliant Energy.

“We are repurposing the property and some of the related infrastructure of the retired Duane Arnold Energy Center and reinvesting in Linn County,” said Ben Lipari, Alliant Energy’s director of resource development. Lipari told POWER his group is “transitioning a portion of the site to produce solar energy, coupled with large-scale storage to add operational flexibility for our customers.”

 “It’s part of our purpose-driven strategy of serving customers and building stronger communities,” said Terry Kouba, president of Alliant Energy’s Iowa energy company. “Our plan also keeps customer affordability at the forefront. We are excited to transition land from the decommissioned nuclear facility into the largest solar and battery storage facility in Iowa.”

Repurpose Existing Infrastructure

The solar-plus-storage installation plans to use the existing electricity transmission infrastructure at the Duane Arnold site. The 615-MW nuclear facility, which was scheduled for closure late last year, was not restarted after being damaged by high winds during a derecho in August 2020.  

The Duane Arnold Energy Center, located in Palo, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids in Linn County, was closed for good last year after high winds caused damage to the plant’s cooling towers, which are shown at left in this photo. The nuclear power plant had entered operation in 1975. Courtesy: NextEra Energy Resources

Alliant Energy on Tuesday said development and construction of the first 200 MW of solar energy and 75 MW of battery storage at the site will create as many as 200 new construction jobs. An economic impact study conducted by Strategic Economic Research, an Illinois-based consultancy for the renewable energy industry, said the Duane Arnold project has a projected combined positive economic output of up to $260 million for Iowa, including as much as $154 million for Linn County. The study looked at the cumulative economic impact of new jobs, wages, tax revenue, and other economic activity during construction and across the lifecycle of the projects. 

“This is good for our customers, the communities we serve and the environment while powering tens of thousands of homes with solar energy,” said Mayuri Farlinger, director of operations at Alliant Energy. “In addition, these projects assure our customers we have a diverse mix of reliable energy generation to meet their ongoing demands.”

Alliant Ramping Up Renewables

Alliant on Tuesday said it would detail its plans for the additional 200 MW of solar power generation at a later date. The utility today has about 1,300 MW of wind power generation in Iowa, and said adding 400 MW of solar will bring renewable generation to about half of the company’s total resource mix in the state.

Lipari told POWER, “Our Clean Energy Blueprint is our plan for accelerating our transition to produce more clean, renewable energy while investing back into the communities we serve. Clean energy and storage technology is cost-effective and will deliver sustainable benefits to our customers for decades to come. As we advance our solar and storage plans, we’re guided by our Clean Energy Vision, creating a purposeful transition to ensure a diverse energy mix. Our transition to renewable energy positions us to achieve our clean energy goals, including eliminating all coal from our generation fleet by 2040 and an aspirational goal to reach net-zero CO2 emissions for the electricity we generate by 2050.”

Subsidiaries of NextEra Resources in their filing to the IUB are requesting approval for siting of the new projects. A decision from the board is expected in the second half of 2022.

“We are very pleased to continue working with Alliant Energy and the community of Linn County, which we have been fortunate to serve for the past 15 years with the Duane Arnold Energy Center,” said Matt Handel, senior vice president of development for NextEra Energy Resources. “Duane Arnold Solar is an innovative project that pairs cost-effective, clean, renewable energy from the sun with battery energy storage technology—providing customers with more access to renewable energy over more hours of the day, even when the sun is not shining.”

Said Kouba: “Alliant Energy and NextEra Energy Resources have a long history of collaborating to provide carbon-free sources of energy and energy generation to customers. These plans put us on course for achieving our aspirational goal of net-zero carbon dioxide emissions for the electricity we generate by 2050.Our customers, the local community and the environment will benefit from this solar and battery storage facility for decades to come.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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