A proposed700 MW natural gas-fired facility near Beloit, WI, has received verbal approval from Wisconsin regulators, backer Alliant Energy Corp. said Thursday.

The $700 million project would be an expansion of the Madison, WI-based utility’s existing Riverside Energy Center in Rock County, WI. Alliant said the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSC) has “agreed that moving ahead” with the Riverside modernization project “is in the best interest of customers.”

The Riverside expansion would consume roughly 100,000 Dth/d at peak operation, pulling supply from an existing branch line from the ANR Pipeline, Jeff Hicken, Alliant manager of gas trading and dispatch, told NGI. The facility has a “potential future plan to connect to” the Northern Natural Gas Co. pipeline system, Hicken said.

The gas-fired generating facility is expected to break ground this fall with a 2020 in-service date. Alliant said the project will create over 1,000 construction jobs.

The 700 MW of gas-fired capacity is planned to replace roughly 640 MW of less-efficient coal and gas generation in Wisconsin slated for retirement by 2020. The PSC approval of the project is contingent upon Alliant obtaining other state and federal permits needed to construct, build and operate the facility.

“This is a major step forward, as the Riverside project is a critical part of our mission to provide reliable, cost-effective energy to our customers for many years to come,” Alliant CEO Patricia Kampling said. “This highly efficient generating station will modernize our generating operations and further our transition to cleaner energy sources.”

Driven by low prices, natural gas made significant gains last year in share of U.S. electric generation and is projected to overtake coal on an annual basis as the leading fuel for power plants in 2016 (see Daily GPI, March 16).

Meanwhile, coal made up 80% of retired generating capacity in the United States in 2015 (see Daily GPI, March 8), with almost all new generating capacity coming from wind, gas and solar (see Daily GPI, March 24).

Alliant operates 5.4 GW of generating capacity and 9,280 miles of natural gas mains. The utility serves 950,000 electric customers and 410,000 natural gas in Wisconsin and Iowa.