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Xcel Energy: Sherco Plant Back to Full Power Next Year [AUDIO,PHOTOS]

Sherco Power Plant, Photo by WJON.com’s Jim Maurice

BECKER – It’s been nearly a year since one of the three coal fired units at the Sherco Power Plant in Becker failed, and went off-line.  Today (Tuesday) Xcel Energy officials gave a tour of the plant, and an update on their progress in getting it back up and running.

Plant Director Ron Brevig says they’re hoping to get it back up and running early next year.

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Brevig says it’s not unusual to take this long to repair the damage.

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Brevig says Sherco Unit 3 was undergoing routine maintenance, and an upgrade of a turbine, at the time of the mechanical failure last November.  They’re still investigating the cause of the failure, and hope to know the reason why it failed by the end of this year.

It’s costing them between $150 and $200 million to fix unit 3, a majority of it is covered by insurance.

There were no injuries during the incident.

Sherco units 1 and 2 have continued to run at full power.  Xcel Energy has also used other forms of energy, like natural gas from other plants, to make up for the lost coal fired power from Sherco’s unit 3.

Unit 3 was built in the mid 1980′s, and generates about 900 megawatts. Units 1 and 2 were built in the mid 1970′s.

Sherco’s Future:
Xcel Energy officials say Sherco is the cornerstone of their four remaining coal plant fleet.  Sherco provides 60-70% of their coal-fired generating capacity.  Meanwhile, coal provides about 30% of Xcel’s energy.

Xcel Energy is spending about $50 million in the next year on the Sherco Plant, to upgrade the facility for state and federal EPA emissions standards.  However, if the federal government requires stricter EPA standards, those costs could escalate to over $450 million.

Xcel Energy is in the process of studying the future of the plants in their system, which is expected to be completed some time next year.

Fast Facts about Sherco:
– They receive 20,000 tons of coal on three trains every day from Montana and Wyoming.
– Sherco sits on 4,600 acres just west of Becker
– The facility’s 2,400 megawatts produced is enough energy for two million households.
– Energy produced in Becker is sent to five states, including: Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin.
– They employ 300 permanent full time employees.
– They make $40-$45 million in capital investments annually.

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