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Energy

NorthWestern Energy To Build Natural Gas Plant, Buy Power From Batteries, Hydro

The outside of the NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.
Nora Saks
/
Montana Public Radio
The outside of the NorthWestern Energy building in Butte, Montana.

Montana’s largest electric utility announced Tuesday it’s adding 325 megawatts to its portfolio, half of which will come from a new natural gas plant it plans to build in southeastern Montana.

NorthWestern Energy says it’ll construct a new 175 megawatt plant in Laurel, just outside of Billings.

The $250 million Laurel Generating Station will use a technology called reciprocating internal combustion engines, or RICE, which is known for burning natural gas more efficiently and cleanly than other oil and gas generators.

NorthWestern says it plans to buy the remaining 150 megawatts of generation from lithium-ion battery storage and hydroelectric facilities.

The overall 325 megawatt acquisition will meet half of what NorthWestern has said it needs to meet peak capacity demand based on a 2021 report that says it buys 645 megawatts on the open market.

NorthWestern says its new gas plant will come online by 2024.