- Minnesota Power this week announced it will retire two small coal units at its Boswell Energy Center in Cohasset, Minn., by the end of 2018.
- The two units slated for retirement each produce 65 MW of power. The other two, Units 3 and 4, combine to generate almost 1,000 MW.
- Most of Minnesota Power's generation is coal, but about a quarter of the utility's power already comes from carbon-free sources. The utility plans to reduce carbon emissions on its system by about 20% by 2020.
The Boswell units to be retired are small, but Minnesota Power says the move demonstrates its commitment to diversifying its generation and producing cleaner energy. But with those decisions come hard choices, the utility warned.
“The decision to retire units 1 and 2 at Boswell, though difficult for our employees and host communities, is consistent with Minnesota Power’s EnergyForward strategy of diversifying its energy mix, reducing its carbon footprint and evolving away from smaller, older coal generators,” ALLETE Chairman, President and CEO Alan Hodnik said in a statement.
Minnesota Power is owned by ALLETE. The decision mothball the units will directly impact 30 employees.
“We recognize this news comes during a difficult time for the West Range which has experienced job losses, delays and closures related to our natural resource based industry in recent weeks,” said Josh Skelton, vice president of generation operations. Skelton said the utility would assist workers and the community in the wake of the closures.
The company also defended the decision to keep Units 3 and 4 operating. Hodnik said investments in emissions reduction technology and new turbine rotors make them among the cleanest and most efficient in the country.
"These large, state-of-the-art units, along with the company’s investments in renewable energy and access to low cost power markets, will ensure the continued availability of reliable and affordable electricity to meet the needs of all our customers, including those who compete in global markets," Hodnik said.
In its Integrated Resource Plan last year, the utility had proposed making improvements to the smaller units and operating them another decade, but Minnesota Power said detailed analysis supported its decision as best for customers.
The utility said it "will be evaluating the need for replacement power as part of its ongoing system planning activities." A transition away from Minnesota Power's small, older coal facilities has now removed more than 300 MW from its portfolio, according to the Duluth News Tribune. Over the summer, the utility issued a request for proposals targeting 300 MW of wind energy.