Becker considers options with scaled-back energy plant
BECKER, Minn. (AP) — A central Minnesota city that is home to the largest coal-fired plant in the Upper Midwest is looking to diversify its A central Minnesota city that is home to the largest coal-fired plant in the Upper Midwest is looking to diversify its economy as Xcel Energy plans to retire most of the plant’s generators over the next seven years.
The Minneapolis based-utility, which owns the plant, recently announced plans to replace two of the three Sherburne County Generating Station generators with a smaller natural gas plant, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. Xcel Energy aims to eliminate all its carbon emissions from electric power by 2050 as the utility moves to more renewable sources of energy, including wind and solar.
But the coal plant in Becker provides 300 jobs and accounts for three-fourths of the city’s property tax revenue. Becker officials are forced to imagine a future without the fossil fuel.
“I never thought I would find myself in the middle of this battle for coal in this country,” said Becker City Administrator Greg Pruszinske. “And here we are, smack-dab right in the middle.”
City leaders are looking to bring in new businesses so the community can thrive without the plant’s coal units.
Many are hopeful about recent news that Google is considering the city to build a new $600 million data center. The project could create 50 permanent jobs and around 2,000 construction jobs for up to 24 months, according to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Pruszinske said the city has available land, nearby highways and rail lines and a ready workforce, which makes the city attractive to the Google project as well as industries that produce renewable energy or electric vehicles.
“It’s flat. It’s easy to build on,” he said of the city’s land. “We’re just waiting for the right client.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org