Iron Range Coal Plant Gets Re-purposed

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Laskin Energy Center has been operating for more than 60 years.

After the station received its last batch of coal, Minnesota Power turned the tide.

“It made a lot of sense financially and environmentally to convert it into natural gas,” said Minnesota Power V.P. of strategy and planning Allan Rudeck.

Built in 1953, the Laskin Energy Center was created for the growing taconite industry.

“It served as baseload all the way through to the 1980s,” said Rudeck. “Then the downturn in the taconite industry it was idle for a number of years and came back to serve the industry for another 20 years.”

Last year, after taking a look at their long range planning, Minnesota Power decided to make Laskin a more environmentally friendly resource by converting it from coal generation to natural gas.

“There was lots of pressure to shut down the plant, if nothing else to take it off of coal from advocacy groups that would like to have seen it gone,” Allete CEO Allan Hodnik said. “We found a better solution which still allows it to continue to operate just on cleaner natural gas.”

The plant’s existing generators and equipment were transitioned and gas lines were added.

Project officials tell FOX 21 the 110 megawatt net facility will now produce more than 50 percent less emissions than when it was using coal.

“Its’ part of moving energy forward in Minnesota, which we’ve been doing here quite extensively for the last 3 ½, 4 years here,” said Hodnik. “Bringing about a less carbon intense, more emissions pure.”

Community members and leaders gathered to mark the occasion with a re-dedication ceremony.

“It’s a positive win, win, win for the community, for the employees, for our customers and the environment,” said Rudeck.

Instead of running 24/7, the plant will only produce when there is a demand.

The renovation of the Steven Chambers Pavilion and Minnesota Powers initiative to plant three million new trees and seedlings over the next 10 years were also celebrated.