A municipal utility board in Rochester, Minn., voted last night to phase out its coal-fired power plant.

The municipal utility has sought to sell power from the 100-megawatt Silver Lake plant to the regional electricity grid, but in recent years it’s had an increasingly difficult time competing with natural gas and wind power. …

“This is a reflection of the impact the pricing of natural gas, the availability of wind energy and the economic downturn have had on the ability for utilities to dispatch the smaller coal units in to the market,” a consultant’s report to the utility said. …

Between 2004 and 2011, the cost of coal delivered to Minnesota increased on average 11.8 percent per year. Nationwide, the increase was 11.4 percent per year on average. Those costs reflect growing competition for resources with China, as well as rising mining costs that come with extracting coal from deeper mines.

“It’s not like you scoop out a nice even ice-cream scoop out of the ground. The geology is much more complicated than that, so as you go deeper … the costs are going up,” [Fresh Energy science policy director] Drake Hamilton said.


A pile of coal sits outside the Silver Lake power plant.

Beth Goodpaster, director of the clean energy program at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, explained another challenge the plant faced.

“We need agile resources that combine well with renewables, and coal doesn’t really have a place in that system,” Goodpaster said. “They’re just becoming sort of a drag on a modern clean energy grid.”

Anyway, it’s all the EPA’s fault, vote Romney, etc.