The biomass boilers in Virginia and Hibbing, known together as the Laurentian Energy Authority, have been running for 10 years now. And the contract to keep them going is for a total of 20 years. Xcel Energy was granted the ability to store more nuclear waste at their Prairie Island facility, and in exchange, was to buy renewable energy from the biomass projects.
But Xcel and others are looking at possibly shortening that contract, as the cost per megawatt of biomass is now four times the cost of natural gas. That means customers are paying more for energy.
Range lawmakers have introduced bills about shortening the contract, in part, to help the Laurentian Energy Authority avoid a $10 million dollar penalty.
The contract requires them to meet certain requirements. Because of problems in the start-up years, they may not meet the requirements. “That fine would have to be paid by the ratepayers of the utilities, and we are trying to avoid that,” Rep. Jason Metsa said.
The Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota are sympathetic to the potential fine. But say their members could take a big hit, too. “The agreement is for a 20 year cycle. Our loggers have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment like chippers to provide service to the biomass industry,” Scott Dane told us. He’s the executive director of the ACLT. “We think there’s plenty of time to work out the contract in a way to save the logging jobs. And the cost per megawatt of biomass has not changed since the start of the projects.”ACLT, ACLTMN, Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers Of Minnesota, biomass, biomass boilers, biomass industry, biomass projects, chippers, contract loggers, contract truckers, energy costs, Hibbing, Jason Metsa, Laurentian Energy Authority, logging industry, logging jobs, megawatt, Minnesota, Minnesota biomass, Minnesota biomass industry, Minnesota biomass projects, Minnesota loggers, Minnesota logging, Minnesota logging industry, Minnesota utilities, natural gas, nuclear waste, Prairie Island, Range, ratepayers, renewable energy, Scott Dane, Virginia, Xcel, Xcel Energy