An inside look

Officials offer glimpse into new Alliant plant

T-R PHOTO BY MIKE DONAHEY AND GARRY BRANDENBURG Pictured are numerous mechanical and structural components of Alliant Energy’s new Marshalltown Generating Station in the 1200 block of East Nevada Street opened for a media tour Tuesday. An extensive network of boilers, cooling towers, piping and water containment tanks have been synchronized to provide 500,000 homes and businesses with reliable, environmentally friendly power for the next 30-40 years.

A local project which broke ground July 15, 2014, cost nearly $650 million and ranks as the largest economic development initiative in Marshalltown debuted for a media tour Tuesday.

Officially, it is known as the Marshalltown Generating Station, named by owner Alliant Energy.

Aptly named, it started generating power April 1 for not only Marshalltown customers, but for other Alliant customers statewide.

But behind MGS is several acres of cable, concrete, piping, steel and thousands of gallons of water.

Its mission: Supply reliable, secure and safe energy to 500,000 customers and more for the next 30-40 years.

The project was more than six years in the making, said company officials, and required approximately two and one-half years to build.

The economic impact was chart-busting.

As of Feb. 13, hundreds of construction workers and suppliers had injected $47.3 million into the Marshalltown area economy.

Additionally, the plant will generate millions in tax revenue.

At one time there were as many as 1,200 construction workers on site.

Now that is down to approximately 215 who are finishing up the job removing scaffolding, insulating and other tasks.

That will leave 20 Alliant workers who will manage the highly-automated plant.

Local suppliers benefited significantly.

For example, Emerson Process Management/Fisher Controls of Marshalltown provided software to run the facility, as well as numerous valves.

Importantly Alliant’s investment is paying off — the plant became operational April 1, has been providing electricity for homes and businesses all but seven days this month.

“We were anxious and excited April 1,” said MGS Plant Manager Craig Crawford. “And we are proud of this investment in clean energy. It will replace 14 less efficient, smaller and older generating units with the latest energy technology. It will emit less than half the carbon dioxide, two-thirds less nitrogen oxides and roughly 99 less sulfur dioxide and mercury than tradition coal-fired plants.”

Crawford and Senior Marketing and Communications Director Justin Foss and other Alliant officials made it clear that technology allows the plant to adjust quickly in response to energy generated by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.

However, central to plant operation is natural gas and the abundance of clean water.

Two sizable natural gas lines run by Marshalltown, allowing for plenty of fuel and giving Marshalltown a leg-up on the more than 160 communities initially competing for the project.

Nationwide, natural gas production has grown considerably, said Alliant. This has resulted in lower prices.

The new gas pipeline connecting the MGS to the existing Northern Border Power pipeline means an improved natural gas capacity and gas delivery system for all of Marshalltown

Additionally, the plant’s mammoth boilers heat up water for steam to power electricity-producing generators.

Marshalltown Water Works is providing thousand of gallons of water, drawn from deep wells north of the Iowa River, specifically from the Mississippi and and Pleistocene Aquifers.

MGS Maintenance Manager Jim Fleming, who has been employed by the company nine years, directed the tour comprised of the Times-Republican and representatives from other media outlets.

“My co-workers and I are passionate about providing clean energy not only to Marshalltonians, but to other Alliant customers,” he said. “It is a great feeling to work here.”

Alliant officials announced during the media tour MGS is the recipient of the Envision Platinum award from the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure.

“The facility is the first in Iowa to earn an Envision sustainable infrastructure award,” said the press release.

“The Envision system rates the sustainability of infrastructure projects across the full rand of environmental, social and economic impacts and the Platinum award is the highest attainable Envision recognition level.

Envision rates projects on quality of life, impact on the natural world and climate and risk, according to ISI press release..

“ISI is pleased to present the MGS with the Envision Platinum award for sustainable infrastructure,” said ISI President and CEO John Stanton. “Residents, businesses and industries in Marshalltown and beyond will benefit from the increased generating capacity and improved reliability of the electrical supply for decided to come. This project will also improve Marshalltown’s environmental condition.”