BENSON, Minn. — Built in 2007 as a unique method of creating electricity by burning turkey manure, wood chips and other biomass products, the former Fibrominn/Benson Power LLC facility will be demolished in the next few days.
At 8 a.m. Saturday, explosives will be used to destroy the 10-story spray dryer building at the 78-acre site, located on the northwest edge of Benson.
At 8 a.m. Wednesday, the same process will be used to demolish the 15-story boiler house and 30-story smoke stack.
The massive plant generated 47 megawatts of renewable energy that Xcel Energy was mandated to purchase for the next decade.
But Xcel argued that the power produced at the Benson plant cost more than other renewable energy options and added costs to customers. With the blessing of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and Legislature, Xcel purchased the plant in 2017 with plans to decommission it and raze it.
As part of the state-approved plan, Xcel agreed to pay the city of Benson over $20 million over four years to offset the loss of property taxes and the 45 jobs the plant provided. It’s estimated the plant closure also affected more than 50 other related jobs, like the trucking industry.
The plant was one of the largest taxpaying entities in Benson and Swift County, paying nearly $930,000 in state, county, school and city taxes.
In a press release Thursday, Xcel Energy said ending the contract and closing the plant will save Xcel customers “hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade.”
But Greg Langmo, a turkey farmer from Litchfield who was on the development committee that helped bring the plant to Benson and later worked as the fuel manager there for about six years, was disheartened about the demise of the plant.
“It’s so sad. It’s so sad,” Langmo said in a telephone interview Thursday. “It’s very disappointing it’s not here.”
He said the plant was a “reliable buyer of poultry litter” and allowed poultry farmers to move large quantities of manure year-round. Spreading turkey manure on fields can be difficult in wet spring weather — like this year, he said.
Lango said the facility was built with the goal of providing a solid tax base, jobs and an environmentally sound alternative for dealing with poultry waste.
Langmo said the involvement of people and communities across west-central Minnesota who worked with the original owners, who were from England, was a “great example of what communities can do when people set their minds to it and when they’re shooting for the same goal.”
Hearing news that the plant was about to be demolished hit Langmo hard.
“That thing was built to last 100 years,” he said. “It’s really, really built well. It’s a wonderful facility.”
“It’s a great example of what communities can be done when people set their minds to it. And when people are shooting for the same goal.”