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Workers close to finish at Spiritwood Station

Construction is wrapping up on the coal-fired power plant at the Spiritwood Industrial Park.

The process follows plans for Spiritwood Station's commissioning and startup beginning in August.

The Great River Energy plant will produce 76 megawatts of electricity with an additional 23 megawatts during peak demands. The steam from the plant will also be used as a heat source by the Cargill Malting plant and possibly in future ethanol or bio-energy plants that could be located at the site.

"It's quite a process to start a plant like this," GRE spokesman Lyndon Anderson said. "There will be fine tuning through the end of the year. We also have a contract to provide steam to Cargill in 2012 and we will produce electricity as demand increases."

The plant was originally scheduled to go online in 2010.

"The previous delay was because of the impact of the recession in Minnesota," Anderson said. "That was the reason we delayed operations from October 2010 to 2012."

Possible challenges to selling electricity from the plant in Minnesota were cleared last week when Gov. Mark Dayton signed a law that exempted the Spiritwood Station from Minnesota's carbon-offset regulations. Dayton vetoed a similar bill that would have exempted other North Dakota coal-fired plants.

Anderson said the law's passage had little operational effects for Spiritwood Station.

"In reality the long-term effects are minimal and doesn't change the startup schedule," he said. "It does remove a possible challenge to our carbon-offset program with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission."

The differences in state regulations regarding energy sources are an issue, according to Brian Kalk, North Dakota Public Service commissioner.

"This is one reason we need a national energy policy," he said. "The rules of another state can hamstring the energy-producing states."

The Spiritwood Station project was not reviewed by the North Dakota PSC because it fell under the 100-megawatt threshold in place when construction started in 2007.

The final months of the plant construction and the following startup will be busy.

"Things are moving along still and it is a busy place," Anderson said. "About 200 contractors on site working towards the finish in a month or two."

Great River Energy has also brought in workers to begin the training process.

"We're sharing workers with other power plants," he said. "That training has been a great benefit."

Other future milestones include the delivery of the first coal and the starting of the boiler, both possibly in August.

Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at (701) 952-8452 or by e-mail at knorman@jamestownsun.com

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