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NorthWestern Energy planning $250 million natural gas plant in Laurel

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NorthWestern Energy is planning to build a new $250 million natural gas plant in Laurel as part of its plans to boost long-term capacity resources, the utility announced Tuesday.

The plant, known as the Laurel Generating Station, would generate 175 megawatts using a reciprocating internal combustion engine, known as a RICE unit, the Butte-based utility said in a news release. The utility did not say where in the Laurel the plant would be built. (Update: NorthWestern Energy spokeswoman JoDee Black said the utility would announced specifics on the location in about a month.)

NorthWestern hopes to bring the Laurel Generating Station online on Jan. 3, 2024. The utility plans to submit its application to the Montana Public Service Commission around May 14, and NorthWestern expects the approval process to take about nine months.

The Laurel power plant is part of NorthWestern’s plans to acquire 325 megawatts of dispatchable capacity resources. Other projects includes a pending agreement to buy into a 50-megawatt battery storage project and a five-year power purchase deal with Powerex, a subsidiary of BC Hydro, for 100 megawatts of hydroelectric power.

These projects aim to help NorthWestern, Montana’s largest utility, to increase available power resources to increase reliability for customers in the state as other resources look to retire. NorthWestern owns a 30 percent stake in Colstrip coal-fired unit 4 plant, which is likely nearing the end of its life.

“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,” said NorthWestern Energy Chief Executive Officer Bob Rowe in the news release.

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