NorthWestern Energy said this week it would build a 175 MW natural gas power plant in Montana. The $250 million project is part of a larger plan to add 325 MW of power capacity to address increasing energy needs in its home state.

Montana power by source

The other components of NorthWestern’s plan include a 50 MW battery storage project utilizing lithium-ion technology and a five-year agreement to buy 100 MW of hydropower.

The gas-fired, reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) power plant near Laurel, MT, is expected to be online by early 2024, the company said. RICE plants are capable of rapid daily starts and stops, the company said, providing power on-demand and balancing gas with renewable sources such as wind and solar.

“This selection of diverse projects will provide critically needed flexible capacity from a combination of thermal and renewable resources,” said NorthWestern’s John Hines, vice president of supply.

Along with the Laurel Generating Station, the battery storage project that is expected to come online in late 2023 would store wind energy when generation outstrips demand.

“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,” CEO Bob Rowe said.

“Developing a diverse portfolio of resources capable of producing the energy our Montana customers need any time they need it is the responsible path forward as we all work together toward an affordable, reliable and cleaner energy future,” Rowe added.

The company said it would seek Montana Public Service Commission approval in May for the new plant and the battery storage project.

The utility will begin receiving the additional 100 MW of hydropower capacity in 2023 from Powerex Corp., a subsidiary of British Columbia-owned BC Hydro.

NorthWestern provides electricity and natural gas power to 743,000 customers in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The company last May announced the construction of an $84 million, 58 MW RICE plant in eastern South Dakota.