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City of Benson rejects co-location proposal for former Fibrominn site

Brightmark Energy of San Francisco, California, is working with the city of Benson in hopes of acquiring a portion of the former Fibrominn property. The city has said it does not support a separate co-location proposal by the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company and BioPro. File photo/West Central Tribune

BENSON — The city of Benson told the Public Utilities Commission it will not support a co-location proposal by the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company and BioPro for the former Fibrominn property.

In a Nov. 30 letter to the PUC, the city stated it has denied the request by the companies for support. 

Chad Friese, general manager of Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company, and Truman Homme, CEO and board chair of BioPro, met with Benson City Council members in November asking for support. They are asking Xcel Energy to reconsider its rejection of their offer to purchase the former power plant building and its combustion system.

The ethanol company is interested in converting the facility to use corn stover as a fuel to produce steam. The steam would be used to power its ethanol plant and make possible an expansion of its operations from producing 55 million gallons of ethanol a year to 120 million gallons.

The city of Benson has been working with Brightmark Energy of San Francisco, California. That company is interested in acquiring the fuel haul building at the Fibrominn site to produce renewable natural gas. It would develop a digester to produce the gas from animal and other wastes from area dairies. The company intends to ship the gas on either of two interstate pipelines near Benson.

Xcel Energy has offered to sell the site to Brightmark, and the city supports the sale.

Friese and Homme said it would be possible for them to co-locate at the site with Brightmark and allow the two projects to go forward, creating new jobs and additional economic activity.

"The city believes it is in the community's best interest for the BME (Brightmark) transaction to move forward and we are concerned that BPP's (BioPro) activities will interfere and possibly jeopardize the BME acquisition," stated Mayor Terri Collins in the city's letter to the

PUC. "For these reasons, we request that the PUC take no action on the submission by BPP."

Xcel Energy purchased and closed the Fibrominn operation, which produced electricity by using turkey manure and wood chips as a fuel source. Xcel Energy is obligated to dismantle and remove the power plant. Brightmark has no interest in that part of the property.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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