- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

BENSON, Minn. (AP) - A plant in western Minnesota that burns turkey litter for power and was once heralded by politicians could soon be shutting down.

Reed Anfinson, who serves on the city of Benson’s economic development authority, told Minnesota Public Radio (https://bit.ly/2qciTEX ) that 45 employees of Benson Power, formerly known as Fibrominn, were told this week that the plant could close.

Xcel Energy has about a decade left on a contract to buy the power at a premium, but the utility company wants out.

“The costs to rate payers are near $100 million a year, the environmental benefits are minimal, and it just hasn’t worked,” said Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and chairman of the House energy committee.

Company officials said in a statement that biomass power costs up to 10 times more than new wind power.

“As one of the industry leaders in reducing carbon emissions at a low cost to our customers, we want to pursue new and emerging technologies that are cleaner while still providing good economic value for customers,” the statement read.

In the 1990s, Xcel Energy sought permission to store radioactive waste in above-ground dry cask storage at its plant in Red Wing. The deal struck at the Legislature included a requirement that the company generate or purchase 125 megawatts of biomass energy.

For the past decade, the plant has created work for turkey farmers and truckers who deliver biomass to the plant. Anfinson, who is also owner and publisher of the Swift County Monitor-News, said the plant accounts for a quarter of the city’s current property tax revenues.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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