ST. CLOUD -- The city of St. Cloud is working on a plan that will turn beer waste into electricity. The past two years St. Cloud's Waste Water Treatment Facility has been using a generator that converts organic waste into energy. That waste has primarily come from city residents, along with a few outside sources like distilleries and dairy farms.

Public Services Director Pat Shea says they've already seen the benefits and have been able to run the waste water treatment facility completely off the grid at certain times.

We're the first municipality in Minnesota to claim that we've done that, and we've done it about 30 times since mid-2017.  If you think about 30 percent of all the electricity used by the city government in St. Cloud, 30 days of that we've taken completely off the grid.

Shea believes St. Cloud is the first city in the state to have a project of this size and scope, and it's about to get a whole lot bigger.

The city is considering entering a five-year agreement with the Cold Spring Brewing Company, in which the brewer will ship three-to-five truckloads of their waste each week to the St. Cloud facility.

Shea says the five-year agreement with the brewing company will significantly expand their energy production.

Right now we have a 633-kilowatt generator that can generate about 6 1/2 million kilowatts of energy per year, and this will double that capacity of what we can treat.  Conservatively we're thinking a 30-percent increase, but it could go as high as 70-percent.

Shea says the agreement calls for a one-time fee of $250,000, and they'll be charged a tipping-fee on each delivery.

Cold Spring Brewing Company is hoping to start producing their new product line in the first half of next year. Shea says the city will have to invest in a second generator to handle the increased byproduct, which may not be up and running until late next year.

Shea says the energy being produced by the wastewater treatment facility doesn't necessarily mean city residents will see lower utility bills, but it will help to keep the rates down, while the costs to operate and maintain the facility continue to rise.

He says the biggest benefit is it is the ultimate recycling project producing a clean renewable form of energy.

The agreement with the Cold Spring Brewing Company is on Monday's city council meeting agenda.

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