Stories tagged Xcel

May
03
2007

Rock-Tenn paper recycling plant loses steam.

Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn biofuel study
Rock-Tenn currently uses steam heat generated by the coal fired Xcel High Bridge plant. When that source of steam is shut off this summer, Rock-Tenn will fire up its old boilers and begin burning fuel oil or natural gas. This will increase their energy costs by four to six million dollars annually but could go much higher depending upon the volatile international energy markets.

The Rock-Tenn plant processes half of all paper recycled in Minnesota (about 1000 tons per day). Rock-Tenn (formerly Waldorf Paper) employs about 500 people at an average salary of $60,000 and spends about $75 million on goods and services yearly.

St. Paul Port Authority, to the rescue.

The St. Paul Port Authority, a non-profit municipal corporation, with its mission of job creation and retention, plans to build a new fuel plant for Rock-Tenn. Big bucks are involved. Current estimates are about $140 million. District Energy, a private, non-profit corprtion, and Market Street Energy, its for-profit affiliate will run the Rock-Tenn power plant (they currently run the St. Paul district heating and cooling).

Law makers propose $4 million to study idea.

The proposed Midway biomass power plant picked up some steam May 1st when members of the Minnesota Legislature included $4 million to study the idea in their environment, energy, and natural resources bill. The bill also allows for regular input from four district councils (near University Avenue and Vandalia Street) and by business and labor interests.

Big, important issues involved.

Coming up with an environmentally friendly biomass source that is technically and economically workable is a task that involves many important issues.

Municipal waste disposal.
Resource Recovery Technologies (RRT) runs a processing plant in Newport, MN that converts municipal solid waste (MSW) to refuse-derived fuel (RDF). The RRT plant gets municipal solid wastes from Ramsey and Washington counties, which subsidize its operation. Read more about municipal waste disposal here.

Energy from renewable fuel sources.

Ramsey and Washington counties support an RDF fuel source for the Rock-Tenn plant as a way to provide both fuel for Rock-Tenn and a "market" for the counties' municipal solid wastes. Other biomass fuel choices exist—among them, woody wastes, agricultural wastes and crops grown specifically for fuel. The choice of fuel for the Rock-Tenn power plant has implications for the municipal solid waste system, but also for air quality, property taxes, agriculture and farmers, and the future of recycling. tcdailyplanet

Who pays? Who profits?
The St. Paul Port Authority, Ramsey County, Washington County and the City of St. Paul are among the public entities whose decisions factor in the process, including decisions on financing and public subsidies. I recommend reading TCPlanet's, "Follow the money" and "Keeping track of the players".

Environmental impacts.
A proposal would need to be made to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) with an Environmental Assessment Worksheet. After the MPCA evaluates this worksheet, it will decide whether a full-scale (time-consuming and expensive) Environmental Impact Statement is necessary.

"a biomass plant has impacts both 'upstream' and 'downstream' of the plant. Upstream impacts include the impacts of growing, harvesting, processing and transporting the biomass. ... Downstream impacts include noise and health impacts from air and water emissions and ash disposal. Air emissions have the most significant downstream impacts." Green Institute study(pdf)

What do you think?

Refuse-derived fuel, known as RDF, raises health and quality of life issues, issues that hopefully will be resolved with fully informed, scientific reasoning. You can get started by following some of the links above.

Nov
26
2006

Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment
Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment

Xcel donates multi-millions to Renewable Development Fund.

What would you do if you were given $16 million each year to develop renewable energy? Minnesota Statute 216B.2423 requires Xcel Energy to donate $500,000 annually for each dry cask containing spent nuclear fuel to a renewables development fund.
To date Xcel Energy has committed to funding nearly $53 million for projects to identify and develop new or emerging renewable energy sources. A third round of funding is to begin by March 2007. A one-time payment of $10 million was made to the University of Minnesota's Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment on July 1, 2003.

University of Minnesota creates Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment (IREE).

The mission of IREE is

to promote statewide economic development, sustainable, healthy, and diverse ecosystems, and national energy security through development of bio-based and other renewable resources and processes.

In fiscal year 2005 alone, IREE awarded nearly $11.5M to renewable energy research and demonstration projects at the University of Minnesota. These funds were used to support 67 projects and leveraged an additional $9.3M from state, federal and business and industry partners.

IREE's Third Annual Research Symposium is Tuesday

Want to talk to researchers about what they are doing with millions of dollars in grant moneys. University of Minnesota faculty and researchers will showcase groundbreaking new work in the areas of renewable energy and the environment next Tuesday, Nov. 28, at the McNamara Alumni Center.

Don Shelby, news anchor for WCCO TV, and Edward Garvey, Deputy Commissioner for the Energy and Telecommunications Division with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, are scheduled to give the keynote addresses. University of Minnesota Regents Professor David Tilman will give the capnote address at the conclusion of this year's conference.
A poster session featuring IREE-funded projects will also take place throughout the day in the main hall.

I attended last year's symposium and plan to go again this Tuesday. My favorite experience last year was talking to the U of M Solar Vehicle team about their car and their experiences racing it cross-country. Here is a link to the Research Symposium schedule. Online registration is now closed but IREE will be accepting walk-up registrations at the door the day of the conference.

Read more about IREE and their funded projects

IREE funded projects 2005, 2004, 2003.
IREE website index.
IREE objectives and activities.

Sep
07
2006

Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke.   licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0
Farming the Wind: photo by Dirk Ingo Franke. licensed under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 1.0

Want to make a difference?

Did you know that you can insist that the amount of electricity you use be produced without generating carbon dioxide emissions or other forms of pollution (mercury, sulfer). Windsource electricity is produced without air emissions, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, both considered to contribute to greenhouse gases. Wind-generated electricity also uses no water and therefore requires no water treatment during production. I am doing this by joining the Windsource program.

Xcel Energy will be held accountable for using Windsource funds appropriately: it must file annual reports with the Minnesota Department of Commerce and Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, accounting for program revenues and expenses and wind generation and sales. In addition, all wind facilities supplying the Windsource program will be certified by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Sierraclub

What does it cost?

I have agreed to pay $2 per 100 kWh extra on my electric bill. This month I used 304 kWh so I was billed an extra $6.08. Since my electricity is pollution free I was rebated the Fuel Cost Adjustment that I otherwise would have paid ($2.76). So I paid an extra $3.32 last month know that I am helping rather than hurting our future environment. When fuel cost rise enough the rebate can become greater than what you pay for Windsource. You can sign up for Windsource here or call 1-800-895-4999 anytime.