Wisconsin-based Dairyland Power Cooperative on Jan. 23 said it would close its 345-MW coal-fired Genoa Station No. 3 by year-end 2021. The move comes as the La Crosse-based utility continues to phase out coal-fired power generation while it develops a new, $700-million natural gas-fired plant, and ramps up its use of renewable power sources.

The Genoa plant has operated for nearly 51 years. Dairyland said the plant employs about 80 workers.

“Our employees are Dairyland’s most valued resource,” said Dairyland CEO Barbara Nick in a statement. “As we made this difficult decision, we did so with a deep appreciation for the contributions of our employees who have dedicated their talents and energy to help us deliver on our mission to our members.”

The supercritical Genoa facility, which was brought online in June 1969, was designed to be highly efficient and uses low-sulfur coal from the Powder River Basin, delivered by barge. “The fact that G-3 is operating at 50 years old is a testament to the dedication of Dairyland’s employees and decades of well -thought-out maintenance initiatives and planning,” said Nick. She said “Dairyland will continue to have a significant presence in Genoa and intends to continue to be a good neighbor. We have long-term commitments to the transmission facilities, the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Facility and the boat landing. It is part of our core to support communities where we operate and serve and we are exploring other opportunities for economic development investments.”

Nick said the decision to close is part of Dairyland’s Sustainable Generation Plan. She said the plant’s age and inefficiency also were factors. “These include age of the facility, system capacity requirements, regulatory requirements, projected maintenance needs and costs, fuel supply, overall cost of power production and regional market prices for energy,” said Nick.

Dairyland still owns and operates the coal-fired John P. Madgett Generating Station in Alma, Wisconsin, a 369-MW plant operating since 1979. Nick said Dairyland has no immediate plan to close that facility.

Dairyland, along with Minnesota Power, is developing the Nemadji Trail Energy Center in Superior, Wisconsin. The project was approved by the Wisconsin Public Service Commission earlier this month, and could come online as early as 2025.

The Genoa site at one time featured the La Crosse Boiling Water Reactor (LCBWR), a 50-MW nuclear power plant built in 1967. The plant was one of a series of demonstration plants funded, in part, by the U.S Atomic Energy Commission. The LCBWR, located on the east bank of the Mississippi River, was shut down in April 1987.

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