Herald Journal - Enterprise Dispatch - Delano Herald Journal
Delano to gain energy from future coal plant

Nov. 2, 2009

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

DELANO, MN – Delano utility officials are powering up for the city’s future energy needs, and they’re sticking with their original plan – a 550-megawatt coal plant called Big Stone II in South Dakota.

Originally, seven power companies joined together in support of the project, but three have since dropped out.

Otter Tail Power Company, headquartered in Fergus Falls, was the most recent dropout, citing their reason as the “broad economic downturn coupled with a high level of uncertainty associated with proposed federal climate legislation and existing federal environmental regulation.”

The Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency (CMMPA), of which Delano is a member, is one of four companies that remain optimistic about their participation in Big Stone II.

“We have continued to analyze this project compared to other alternatives and we stand by our position that this is the best option,” noted Hal Becker, general manager for Delano Municipal Utilities. “By providing a portion of our power supply needs from Big Stone II, we will be diversifying our portfolio and minimizing our risk of cost fluctuations in the future.”

Delano will receive three megawatts, or about 30 percent of its energy from the plant.

The supercritical pulverized coal-fired boiler will more than double electric generation at the existing Big Stone site, with the hope of serving more than a million people.

An upgraded transmission grid will be added to deliver the power to cities that are part of CMMPA, Heartland Consumers Power District in South Dakota, Missouri River Energy Services in South Dakota, and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co in North Dakota.

The region’s electrical consumption is expected to expand by more than 15 percent in the next decade, and Big Stone II plans to meet this need using efficient coal technology.

“We need to take control of Delano’s future by ensuring that our long-term power supply needs are met,” Becker noted.

Becker said people in Delano seem to be on board with the project.

“We have not received any negative comments from our customers,” he stated. “A few customers have made comments that support our involvement with the Big Stone II project.”

Major benefits of Big Stone II include cost and energy independence.

“This allows us to own part of the output of a power plant in the future, instead of hoping that other power suppliers will have excess energy to sell us in the future,” Becker noted. “It reduces our cost by not having us pay a portion of our cost to a wholesale supplier.”

The $2 billion project also plans to stay in line with government environmental regulations.

Big Stone II is designed with the ability to add “carbon capture” technology when it becomes available and cost effective. This technology would help reduce CO2 emissions.

The government has proposed legislation regulating CO2 emissions. This bill, known as the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, would attempt to cut emissions while spending heavily on new energy technologies, according to an Oct. 28 article from CBS News.

The proposed legislation would require companies to reduce their emissions or otherwise pay to cut their emissions elsewhere, the article stated.

The new plant will emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than the average existing coal-fired units in the region, and emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from the two plants will be less than or equal to emissions from the existing plant.

According to the Big Stone II web site, “project participants also will offset 100 percent of Big Stone II’s carbon emissions attributable to Minnesota consumers.”

Big Stone II’s estimated in-service date is spring of 2016.

“We need to assure that we can provide the least cost power supply with the best reliability to the citizens and businesses in Delano in the future,” Becker stated.


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