Consulting firm informs MUC that equipment upgrades would improve efficiency of power plant

WILLMAR -- A consulting company says equipment upgrades will improve the efficiency, reliability and economic performance of the Willmar Municipal Utilities power plant.

WILLMAR -- A consulting company says equipment upgrades will improve the efficiency, reliability and economic performance of the Willmar Municipal Utilities power plant.

The upgrades will provide a degree of efficiency improvement and result in newer, more modern, more maintainable and more controllable equipment, according to representatives from PCi Management and Consulting Company of Schaumburg, Ill.

PCi began in October 2007 looking at possible power plant upgrades to help the Municipal Utilities Commission decide the future of the 60-year-old plant. The results of the study were reported to the commission on Monday.

PCi developed the plan to improve the plant's business and technical operation. PCi evaluated the boilers, fuel handling system, ash handling equipment and auxiliary systems including steam turbine generators and electrical switchgear.

Bruce Gomm, utilities general manager, said the plant is an asset to the community.


"Yes, it does have value and we'll work through the plan to maximize that value,'' said Charles Tyburk, PCi president.

Tyburk said he and Wayne Miller, PCi senior project manager, will return after commission members and utility officials have had a chance to read the study.

In an interview, Tyburk said Willmar's plant is similar to other municipal Midwest power plants.

"Typically, they are all about the same vintage, from 30 to 50 years old,'' he said. "In our opinion, Willmar is probably in the upper quartile of the quality and care given to the plant. They've done a good job over the years of taking care of the plant.''

One of the recommended improvements is installation of a baghouse to collect fly ash and dust emitted out the stack. Tyburk said a baghouse is the preferred collection technology and will dramatically improve the air quality, eliminating 99.5 percent of the ash.

Output is currently limited by the air quality permit to between 6 and 7 megawatts. But coal use and output could be increased to the plant's 17-megawatt capacity if the baghouse were added. An amended air quality permit would be required from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

"Coal consumption would go up because the boiler efficiency would be improved and that's why we need to amend the air permit,'' said Tyburk. He said the recommended improvements would help the utilities eliminate the use of more costly natural gas.

Tyburk and Miller support the use of corn cobs as an alternative fuel. They said Willmar could burn cobs as fuel.


"It is considered a green fuel,'' said Miller. "It is something that is very favorably looked upon. In some states, they are requiring a certain amount of electricity be produced by green fuels. This will help meet that requirement.''

Among other improvements, the consultants recommended the utilities control dust blown from coal delivered by rail car and piled near the plant with a frame and fabric-covered building and with a rail car unloading shed.

The consultants said costs of the improvements range from nearly $3.1 million to $6.4 million, depending on which improvements were implemented.

"The plant is capable of operating for many more years,'' said Tyburk.

Tyburk said a new 17-megawatt, coal-fired power plant similar to Willmar's would cost from $40 million to $50 million.

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