The Allen S. King Generating Plant on the banks of the St. Croix River near Bayport will be idled half the year as a means to save money and reduce carbon emissions. The plant is scheduled to shut down for good in 2028, in a plan announced last year.
In the immediate future, the King Plant will only operate during the highest demand seasons: June to August, when air conditioning causes increased demand, and December to February, when heating demand is high.
The changes reflect the fact that renewable energy, especially wind power, is now often cheaper to produce than coal plants.
Together with another generating plant near St. Cloud that will also be idled, the plan will have multiple benefits for the state.
By only operating the two coal-fired plants seasonally, Xcel estimates it will ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7.3 million tons. That would represent 20-25 percent of Minnesota’s goals for reducing carbon emissions by 2030.
It will also reduce costs and save customers nearly $3.5 million per year by 2023. The proposal from Xcel was recently approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
“This is an important proposal and I appreciate Xcel Energy bringing it forward,” said PUC member Matt Schuerger. “I think this highlights Xcel’s focus on saving their customers money, on meeting Minnesota’s environmental policies, and in being responsive to the investigation the Commission opened.”
The plants will still be available during their off-season if electricity demand is unexpectedly high. It can take a couple days to bring them back online in such circumstances.
The King Plant began operating in 1968, with a landmark smokestack nearly 800 feet tall. It can burn 300 tons of coal per hour, the equivalent of 2.5 train car loads, generating up to 511 megawatts of electricity. The plant was also notable for being the site of the first peregrine falcon nesting box in the country, pioneering a program that helped bring the birds back from the brink of extinction.