The Pleasant Prairie Power Plant Redevelopment

The Pleasant Prairie Power Plant was a coal-fired power station that operated from 1976 to 2018 in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, owned by We Energies.

Located at 8000 95th St in Pleasant Prairie, the plant was capable of producing 1,190 megawatts of electricity, enough to power about 900,000 homes. However, the plant also emitted millions of tons of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and other pollutants, contributing to climate change and health problems.

Michael Sears photo, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

In 2018, We Energies decided to shut down the facility and switch to cleaner sources of energy, such as natural gas and renewable energy. The closure was part of a larger trend of coal plant retirements across the country, driven by environmental regulations, market forces, and public demand. 

What initially sparked my interest in the area was the now-abandoned railroad tracks that served the plant.

View of the site and side tracks on our Abandoned Railroads map.

“We are looking for a clean, reliable energy future for our customers,” said Cathy Schulze, a spokeswoman for the company at the time of the closure announcement.

Since then, the plant has been undergoing a process of decommissioning and demolition, which is expected to be completed by October 2022. The site has been cleared of most of the structures, equipment, and debris, leaving behind a vast area of vacant land along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Kenosha News Photo

What will become of this former industrial site? The answer is a vision of conservation and development that will benefit the environment, the economy, and the community.

The Village of Pleasant Prairie, in partnership with We Energies and other stakeholders, has approved a Master Conceptual Plan to redevelop a portion of the former power plant site into a 198-acre industrial park known as LogistiCenter. The park will feature three modern industrial buildings that will offer space for warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, and other uses. The park will also include stormwater management facilities, landscaping, and a 2-acre park that will tell the story of the power plant’s history and impact.

Dermody Properties will be the new developer. “Dermody Properties appreciates the opportunity to redevelop the former We Energies power plant,” said Tim Walsh, Partner and Chief Investment Officer at Dermody Properties in a press-release. “We recognize the historical significance the property has and are grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the economic growth and sustainability of the Pleasant Prairie community.” The press-release emphasizes how the property is located between two rail lines "at the intersection of the Union Pacific Railroad, which connects the United States from the Midwest to the Gulf, and to the West Coast, along with the newly formed Canadian Pacific Kansas City Southern Railroad, which connects Mexico to Canada."

The industrial park will create new jobs, tax revenue, and business opportunities for the Village and the region. The press release states that the industrial park will also adhere to high standards of environmental sustainability, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, and green building practices, and hopefully that is true, although auditing will need to occur to substantiate these claims once the park is online. The park will be served by rail and road access, reducing the need for truck traffic and emissions.

It is unfortunate that the master plan for the site does not offer any items for preservation as open space and natural habitat. The site could provide a buffer zone between the industrial park and the lake, protecting the water quality and wildlife. Pleasant Prairie and other locations with existing brownfields that could be redeveloped need to offer opportunities for passive recreation, such as hiking, biking, and birdwatching.

Nonetheless, the transformation of the Pleasant Prairie Power Plant site is just one example of how a former coal plant can be repurposed for the benefit of the environment and the community. Any coal plant that is taken offline represents a net-positive to the local and global environment, however, it would be even more of a benefit to create a preserve from this property and allow nature to reclaim, and rebuild, this as a solution to our current economic and societal predicament.

Thanks as always for reading!

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