WisBusiness: Harvey defends Alliant’s proposed Cassville plant

By Brian E. Clark

Bill Harvey, president of Alliant Energy, defended his utility’s plans to build a coal and biofuels-fired plant at Cassville as a “balanced” approach to meeting the state’s future energy needs.

Speaking at Alliant’s annual shareholders’ meeting, Harvey said the proposed 300-megawatt plant would be able to burn coal, corn stalks, wood waste and switch grass. He also said his utility is aggressively pursuing wind, other alternative power sources and energy efficiency programs.

“We need to be diversified, we can’t put all our eggs in one basket,” he said.

Outside the Alliant Energy Center, where Harvey spoke to about 300 shareholders, several dozen protestors from Clean Wisconsin and the Sierra Club carried signs and shouted chants against the plant.

They said the Cassville plant would pollute more than other designs and be a risky financial investment because of the rising cost of coal and impending federal carbon regulations.

They also noted that the state’s Public Service Commission, in a draft environmental statement released Wednesday, said Cassville plant is “not the least-cost option under any scenario” or the “optimal generation choice.”

In comments after his talk to shareholders, Harvey said he had not read the PSC report. But he said all fuels, including natural gas, are rising rapidly.

He also acknowledged that the Cassville plant’s “circulating fluidized bed” design means more of some types of greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere.

But he said any plant would have “some shortcomings, just as it also would have positive benefits.

“I just hope at the end of the day, that the PSC will see that the good outweighs the bad,” he said.