MARSHALL — The City of Granite Falls is still seeking $2.29 million in funding to help complete needed repairs to its hydroelectric generating station. While the bill already has support from area lawmakers, it has also caught the attention of Republican gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates.
Matt Birk, running mate of gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen, said the hydroelectric project was included in Jensen’s plan to reduce energy costs in Minnesota.
Birk said he and Jensen are calling on Minnesota to use a variety of energy resources, instead of just focusing on solar and wind power.
“Let’s be realistic,” and focus on long-term solutions, Birk said.
Birk, along with Minnesota State Senator Gary Dahms and Rep. Chris Swedzinski, toured the Granite Falls Hydroelectric Generating Station and Granite Falls Energy ethanol plant on Thursday.
The city of Granite Falls is seeking additional funds for repairs and replacement of equipment at its hydroelectric plant, city officials told Birk.
“We are trying to secure additional funding from the RDA (Renewable Development Account),” said Granite Falls Town Manager Crystal Johnson. A total of $2.29 million is needed for critical concrete repairs, valve replacements and more, as well as top-up funding for the replacement of one of the plant’s three turbines.
Johnson and Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski said the request has strong bipartisan support in the state Legislature. However, the funding was part of legislation that did not pass until the end of this year’s session.
Two years ago, Granite Falls received $2.75 million from the Minnesota Revolving Development Account. This funding allowed the city to complete some structural repairs to the hydroelectric plant and begin replacing a 36-year-old turbine, Johnson said. However, there is still repair work to be done, and the COVID pandemic has resulted in surprisingly high labor and material costs for the new turbine.
The initial low bid received for the turbine replacement ended up being $490,000 higher, city officials said.
The modernization of the hydroelectric plant would increase its electricity production and create cost savings for the city. It would be positive for Granite Falls, Johnson said. The city is already facing property tax revenue losses after the dismantling of a former NSP factory.
Jensen and Birk’s energy plan calls for the state to develop resources such as hydroelectricity and recommends completing repairs to the Granite Falls plant with money from the Renewable Development Fund. It also calls for a moratorium on nuclear power plants to be lifted and for a reassessment of whether existing coal-fired power plants should be phased out.
Birk said he also learned a lot from touring the Granite Falls Energy plant.
“There is a ton of potential there” he said ethanol. Birk said while he’s not against electric vehicles, they’re not necessarily an option for everyone right now. Meanwhile, ethanol fuel blends are already available. “That’s something we could do right now.”
Birk also expressed support for the carbon dioxide pipeline offered by Summit Carbon Solutions. The proposed pipeline would collect carbon emissions from more than 30 ethanol plants, including Granite Falls Energy, and transport them to an underground storage site in North Dakota.
“If they don’t succeed, Minnesota ethanol producers won’t be able to compete,” said Birk.