GRE starts work on new power plant

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 12, 2000

SARGEANT – It’s official.

Monday, June 12, 2000

SARGEANT – It’s official.

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Great River Energy has received the exemption it said it so desperately needed and will build a $160 million combustion turbine facility east of Sargeant in Pleasant Valley Township.

Details of the exemption will be announced today, when GRE board members and Chief Executive Officer Jim Van Epps hold a news conference at the site.

Also today, ground-breaking will take place and the Pleasant Valley station’s project manager, Tim Steinbeck, will join other GRE team members, government officials and Sargeant and Pleasant Valley Township officials in a ground-breaking.

GRE plans to construct and operate a combustion turbine peaking facility, comprised of three natural gas combustion turbine-generators and related equipment.

The combustion turbines will convert natural gas into electricity via a simple cycle process.

GRE is a generation and transmission cooperative providing electrical energy and related services to 29 distribution cooperatives in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The GRE system covers about 70 percent of the state of Minnesota and serves more than 500,000 members or about 1.4 million people. It is a Touchstone Energy Cooperative.

Based in Elk River, GRE was formed in January 1999 by combining the operations of two Minnesota generation and transmission cooperatives: Cooperative Power and United Power Associates.

The 434-megawatt gas-fired generating facility will be connected via a 161-kilovolt transmission line from the peaking plant to Austin Utilities’ northeast plant and provide a link between an existing Northern States Power transmission line and the north Austin substation.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners endorsed the cooperative’s attempt to gain a personal property tax exemption. In return, GRE will contribute $2.5 million to the county.

The primary fuel for the facility will be natural gas, chosen for its low air emissions and readily available from a Northern States Natural Gas line in the area.

A backup fuel oil supply will be installed on site in case of interruption in the natural gas supply.

Grading at the site began May 2, when the last permit needed to begin construction was granted.

Construction is expected to be completed next spring and the plant will be fully operational by June 1, 2001.

At numerous public information meetings and local hearings during the permitting process, GRE was adamant it needed the personal property tax exemption from the state.

The exemption is only on equipment and the cooperative said the state’s tax made "Minnesota an onerous place to site new generating facilities."

Lakefield Junction received a similar personal property tax exemption a year ago in Martin County.

Personal property and real property taxes on the $160 million facility would have totaled nearly $7 million the first year.

With the exemption received by the cooperative, GRE still will pay real estate taxes between $500,000 and $600,000 a year.