High Bridge Power Plant Project

The Science Museum's neighbor, the Xcel Energy High Bridge power plant, will be undergoing a significant construction project in the coming months. As part of a larger project called Metro Emissions Reduction Project (MERP) Xcel Energy has started working on a $1 billion program that will reduce emissions from three metro area plants (the High Bridge Plant being one) and increase power generating capacity.

Generator: Working principle of a combined cycle power plant.Courtesy Alureiter

Xcel - Current: Existing High Bridge plant. Image courtsey Xcel Energy.

The High Bridge power plant is being converted from a coal burning plant to a combined-cycle natural gas plant. Combined power plants generate electricity from two sources - a gas turbine generator that is powered by natural gas and a steam turbine generator that is powered by the heat exhaust from the gas turbine generator. This use of the gas to essentially power two different types of generators is a more efficient use of resources than the coal burning power plant. As a result of this change, air emissions from the High Bridge power plant will be significantly reduced. Sulfur dioxide emissions will be reduced 99.7%, nitrogen oxide 96.9% and particulate matter 91.5%, while mercury pollution will be completely eliminated.

Xcel - New: High Bridge plant after construction is complete - artist's rendition courtsey Xcel Energy.

My first thought after hearing this (and after having to put gas in my car and heat my home the past few months) was that switching to natural gas is not a very economical situation given current gas prices. However, Xcel says that:

Although natural gas prices have increased, this conversion makes sense for the long term. The gas market is subject to short-term volatility, but the plants will operate for another 30 years so it's the long-term projections that are most important.

If you are in the downtown area in the coming weeks you may hear construction noise from the site as the nearly 1,200 steel pilings for the new power plant are driven into the ground for the new plant's footings. Testing of the new power plant will begin around September 2007 and run through March 2008. The plant is expected to begin commercial operation in May 2008, and demolition of the old plant will start shortly thereafter.

For more information visit Xcel Energy's web pages on the conversion.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

So does that mean they are getting rid of the tower? what about the peregrine falcons that live there??????????

posted on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 3:37pm
bryan kennedy's picture

That's a really good question. Up in the museum's Mississippi River Gallery we have a place where you can watch the peregrine falcons that nest up in a box on the large highbridge smokestack. I will see if I can get some information from Xcel about this.

It doesn't look like changes would affect the smokestack for a couple of years.

posted on Wed, 02/22/2006 - 4:17pm
bryan kennedy's picture

Here is what I found out from the state's documents on this transition.

From the "State Register Notice: Final Decision"

Effect on Rare and Unique Natural Resources
75. The Project will not adversely impact threatened of endangered species. Peregrine falcons, a state-listed threatened species, began nesting under the High Bridge in 1999. To assist in conservation of this rare species, High Bridge Plant installed a falcon nest box on the Plant exhaust stack, which falcons began using in 2000. While the existing smokestack will be removed as part of this Project, the falcon nest box will be removed from the existing exhaust stack prior to stack demolition and during a time when the birds are not nesting. Xcel Energy will work with MDNR Nongame Wildlife staff to determine if an appropriate location and time to place a new falcon nest box at the Project can be identified.

Emphasis and links added myself.

posted on Tue, 02/28/2006 - 3:59pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

An article in the Highland Villager about this indicates that some are thinking that the land that becomes available when the current power plant is demolished could be turned into soccer fields.

posted on Thu, 02/23/2006 - 8:43am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

How much will CO2 emissions be reduced by?

posted on Mon, 08/14/2006 - 3:36pm
bryan kennedy's picture

In other high bridge power plant news, MNSpeak has some links on the unintended consequences of the High Bridge plant's changes. Essentially the Rock-Tenn paper recycling facility in Saint Paul will need to find a new source for its energy and there really isn't any quick and easy option.

posted on Mon, 04/02/2007 - 2:04pm
Paul Kellum's picture
Paul Kellum says:

I heard that there may be soccer fields on some of the land as well as a community center. Does anyone know where i can get more information on this?

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 12:18pm
Joe's picture
Joe says:

I would suggest you contact SoccerSpaces. I think it was one of their representatives that was asked about the possibility of using the site for soccer fields. My current understanding is that site clean up will take a while and must be done before the space can be used for any purpose. The Xcel Energy page on the construction may also provide some useful information.

posted on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 5:41pm
lise's picture
lise says:

More on the High Bridge Power Plant Conversion http://careers.ch2m.com/engineering-projects/highbridge.asp

posted on Mon, 11/23/2009 - 11:06am

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