The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 13, 2014

Le Sueur biogas project before County Board

Plant near Le Sueur plans to build bunker that would store silage

LE CENTER — The Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a plan by a new biogas plant near Le Sueur to build a bunker that would store silage.

Minnesota Municipal Power Agency already has been operating its new Hometown BioEnergy plant, but there has been an ongoing dispute between MMPA and the county over the bunker. The county initially denied a conditional-use permit for the structure and MMPA filed a lawsuit.

County Administrator Darrell Pettis said the two sides sat down to discuss concerns and try to work out a process short of an extended court fight.

He said the Tuesday hearing is a result of the county specifying several conditions they would want if the bunker is built. Pettis said MMPA has agreed to meet all of those conditions.

At 10:15 a.m. Tuesday the County Board will hold a hearing to take public comments on the proposed conditional-use permit for the bunker, which would consist of a concrete slab and walls with a cover put over the silage. The silage would be in the bunker until it is moved to the biogas plant.

Conditions on the structure deal with details such as lighting, screening, drainage and ensuring silage that falls off of trucks is cleaned up quickly.

MMPA provides electricity to 11 Minnesota cities. At peak operation, the plant’s four 2-megawatt generators provide 8 megawatts of power. Using a conventional measure, that will be enough to power about 8,000 homes.

It generates power by digesting agricultural and food-processing byproducts such as chicken manure and corn waste. It uses the gases created from this digestion, mostly methane, to fire the turbines to make power.

This process is common in Europe but not in the United States. The company is pursuing the biogas plant to help it meet a renewable energy standard requiring that 17 percent of the state’s power come from alternative sources by the end of 2016.

The Free Press

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