US 2020 coal closures start with a bang with two units closed in Montana


The closure of coal-powered stations in the US has started with a bang in 2020, with the announcement of the closure of two units at Montana’s Colstrip Power Plant, signalling the end of one of the Western United State’s largest coal-fired plants.

Colstrip Unit 1 ceased operating in the first days of January, with the closure of the plant’s Unit 2 on 04 January, according to Puget Sound Energy, which shared ownership of the units with Talen Energy.

The two units employ a combined staff complement of approximately 100 workers. Units 3 and 4 will remain operational but will be closed within the next five years.

Combined with other local producers, the power complex anchors the economy of Colstrip’s community of 2,300 people, as well as southeast Montana.

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The two companies announced the closure of the two units in June 2019, stating that the coal-fired units which have been operational for more approximately three-and-a-half decades, were uneconomical given rising coal costs and competition from renewables and natural-gas-fired power plants.

Puget has planned the replacement of the capacity with purchases and new generation from third parties to supply power to the Bellevue, Washington-based company’s 1.1 million electric customers following a request for bids to supply 299MW of new generation.

Montana senator Steve Daines said on Twitter “This is a sad week for the Colstrip community, Montana families and our energy security. This outcome is a result of fringe litigation and anti-energy regulations. These attacks on our (Montana)-made energy must stop.”

Talen Energy spokesperson Taryn Williams told local publication The Gazette “After Units 1 and 2 cease operating, they will be put in a cold, dark, dry and safe condition. We expect this work to take several months.”

“As previously stated,” Williams continued. “Talen Montana aims to avoid a significant layoff of Colstrip employees and is committed to doing what is right by our employees. Because our employee transition plan is still being finalized, we are not able to provide further information at this time.”