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Demolition begins Saturday in Benson for defunt power plant fueled by turkey manure

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Tribune file photo The Chippewa County Ethanol Company and BioPro Power are asking the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to allow them to make their case to purchase the former Fibrominn combustion building in Benson before it is dismantled.

BENSON — Built in 2007 as a unique method of creating electricity by burning turkey manure, wood chips and other biomass products, the former Fibrominn/Benson Power LLC facility will be demolished in the next few days.

At 8 a.m. Saturday explosives will be used to destroy the 10-story spray dryer building at the 78-acre site, located on the northwest edge of Benson.

At 8 a.m. Wednesday the same process will be used to demolish the 15-story boiler house and 30-story smoke stack.

The massive plant had generated 47 megawatts of renewable energy that Xcel Energy was mandated to purchase for the next decade.

But Xcel argued that the power produced at the Benson plant cost more than other renewable energy options and added costs to customers. With the blessing of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Legislature, Xcel purchased the plant in 2017 with plans to decommission it and raze it.

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As part of the state-approved plan, Xcel agreed to pay the city of Benson over $20 million over four years to off-set the loss of property taxes and the 45 jobs the plant provided. It’s estimated the plant closure has affected also more than 50 other related jobs, like the trucking industry.

The plant had been one of the largest taxpaying entities in Benson and Swift County, paying nearly $930,000 in state, county, school and city taxes.

In a press release Thursday, Xcel Energy said ending the contract and closing the plant will save Xcel customers “hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.”

But Greg Langmo, a turkey farmer from Litchfield who was on the development committee that helped bring the plant to Benson and later worked as the fuel manager there for about six years, was disheartened about the demise of the plant.

“It’s so sad. It’s so sad,” Langmo said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s very disappointing it’s not here.”

He said the plant was a “reliable buyer of poultry litter” and allowed poultry farmers to move large quantities of manure year-round in all sorts of weather. Spreading turkey manure on fields can be difficult in wet spring weather — like this year, he said.

Lango said the facility was built with the goal of providing a solid tax base, jobs and an environmentally sound alternative for dealing with poultry waste.

Langmo said the involvement of people and communities from several west-central Minnesota counties who worked with the original owners, who were from England, was a “great example of what communities can do when people set their minds to it and when they’re shooting for the same goal.”

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Hearing news that the plant was about to be demolished hit Langmo hard.

“That thing was built to last 100 years,” he said. “It’s really, really built well. It’s a wonderful facility.”

“It’s a great example of what communities can be done when people set their minds to it. And when people are shooting for the same goal”

As part of the demolition plan, state Highway 9, Swift County Road 20 and 25th Avenue Northwest near the plant will be closed no later than 7 a.m. on the demolition days and will reopen at approximately 9 a.m.

080919.N.WCT.PowerDemo.02.Greg Langmo
Greg Langmo of Lango Farms in Litchfield says he is working to restock turkeys after avian influenza struck the farm. “I’m probably 60 days from being where we were when it hit,’’ he said. “We just can’t get the number of turkeys we want when we want them.’’

Related Topics: BENSON
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