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Steve Molenaar letter: Different stories behind Kandiyohi Coop’s coal-generated power

A letter writer has concerns about Kandiyohi Power Coop's energy plans.

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Reader Opinion letter
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Great River Energy’s Coal Creek Station in Underwood, N.D. is North Dakota’s largest power plant, but it had been losing money, $170,000,000 annually. So, it was no surprise that on May 7, 2020, Great River Energy announced the closing of Coal Creek.

The 1,151-megawatt coal plant would be replaced by 1,100 megawatts of wind energy by 2023.

GRE’s announcement claimed that these changes would “significantly reduce GRE’s member-owner power supply costs” and that their power would be more than 95% carbon dioxide-free.

Since Coal Creek releases 11,000,000 tons of CO2 annually, Kandiyohi Power Coop, as one of Great River’s 28 member coops, touted this as good news.

But on June 30, 2021, GRE announced the sale of Coal Creek Station with an agreement to purchase most of its power until 2023 and a third of its power for another 8 years.

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We were told that this was now the cheaper option. It was not made clear why it was suddenly cheaper to sell the plant and commit to buying its power. What changed?

This was clarified in a 1-17-22 Washington Post article, “How Coal Holds On in America.”

Several energy firms were signing leases with North Dakota landowners to install wind turbines.

To keep Coal Creek operating, McLean and Mercer counties in North Dakota passed zoning laws blocking wind power projects from accessing the transmission line into Minnesota, and they put a moratorium on wind and solar projects.

The Sierra Club found that this made it unattractive for Great River Energy to follow through with their original plans. This is what changed. GRE is giving in to strong-arm tactics by North Dakota coal interests.

Here are more reasons to reject this deal.

Carbon sequestration planned by the new owners is speculative and would consume 30% of the power generated. Secondly, it was revealed that the new owners plan to mine bitcoins, which is itself disastrous for the environment.

Coop members are paying to keep North Dakota lignite coal mines working and putting carbon into our atmosphere, ruining our climate.

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What will future generations, dealing with a disastrous climate, think of us?

Steve Molenaar
Willmar

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