Montana G&T Cooperative drops 250 MW coal-fired plant

2 February 2009 — Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative said it would seek financing to build a 120-MW combined cycle natural gas-fired facility, in addition to 6 MW of wind power, scrapping plans for a $900 million, 250 MW coal-fired plant.

SME’s coal-fired Highwood Generating Station faced opposition in the courts and a state environmental appeals board. The plant’s cost projections had almost doubled since it was first proposed in 2005. The U.S. Department of Agriculture denied a loan requested from the utility last year.

SME already planned to build 6 MW of wind power at the proposed coal-fired facility, but the cooperative’s CEO told local reporters additional wind megawatts could be added depending on financing.

The first phase of the project (80 MW) will be ready for service by late 2011, according to the utility. SME broke ground on the coal-fired facility this past fall. Much of the preparation work will fit with construction of the natural gas facility.