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NorthWestern Energy Building a New $250M Natural Gas Plant

As a part of the plan, NorthWestern Energy intends to build a $250 million, a 175-megawatt power plant in Laurel. It intends to add 325 megawatts of dispatchable power to its Montana portfolio. Late Tuesday, the utility laid down the plans for the gas-fired power plant. It will have a 50-megawatt battery storage project and a five-year agreement to buy the 100 megawatts of hydropower.

In a press release NorthWestern Energy posted to Globe Newswire, the details were announced. The new power plant in Laurel will be reciprocating the internal combustion engine plant or RICE. RICE plants have become a popular tool for balancing the generation of intermittent resources like solar wind farms. For more perspective, the plant’s output would be nearly 78% of the nameplate capacity of NorthWestern’s 30% share in the Colstrip Power Plant Unit 4.

Bob Rowe, CEO of NorthWestern Energy, said in the press release, “This resource portfolio addresses a key portion of our immediate need for generation capacity while also allowing us to make progress toward our goal of an energy supply portfolio in Montana that reduces the carbon intensity of our electric generation by 90% by 2045.” The Laurel Generating Station is expected to be available to serve customers by Jan 3rd, 2024.

The project of battery storage is expected to come online in late 2023. On Tuesday, the projects announced were stemmed from a competitive solicitation for resources issued at the beginning of 2020. The utility is expected to report the results of the request for proposal to the Montana Public Service Commission at the end of this month.

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