Duluth's energy plant is taking a long summer vacation from coal

During a 7-month trial run, they'll use natural gas to power the plant that heats and cools downtown buildings.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

Duluth is ditching coal for awhile. The city-owned plant that provides heating and cooling to about 200 buildings downtown will run on natural gas instead of coal for the next seven months, Mayor Emily Larson announced Wednesday.

The city's system sends steam through 10 miles of pipes to heat the buildings. They make that steam by pulling water from Lake Superior and heating it with boilers – that run on coal.

But during their April-through-October experiment, Duluth will instead use natural gas to operate the system. Larson expects the change will lead to a 40 percent drop in the amount of coal burned this year, cutting air pollution by about 15 percent.

As MPR News explains, operators of the plant (which is called Duluth Energy Systems) will still need to use coal during the coldest winter months. But they're hoping they can skip it the rest of the year.

Reducing carbon emissions was one of the priorities Larson laid out in her recent State of the City speech. She set the goal of a 15 percent reduction during her first term.

More efficiencies planned at the plant

The city is calling the switch to natural gas a "first step" because they have other plans for making the steam plant more efficient.

One of the goals set by Ever-Green Energy, the company that operates the plant, is to use hot water instead of steam to heat the buildings in its network. Using hot water would allow the plant to serve buildings farther away from its boiler. But a city official told Midwest Energy News about another advantage, too.

In a hot water system the heat can be recovered after it passes through the buildings, in what's sometimes called a "closed system." The steam system they're using now creates condensation, which just runs into the storm sewers and returns to Lake Superior.

Larson says Duluth has asked the Legislature for $21 million to pay for converting the plant to hot water. Ever-Green Energy is already using a hot water system in St. Paul, where it runs the District Energy plant that serves hundreds of downtown buildings.

Next Up

PD Shimmers closeup

Man with Parkinson's lights up Plymouth with synchronized light show

"The best medicine I have for my disease is what I try to do with the light show," Mike Justak said.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.34.43 AM

Watch: Drunk squirrel in Minnesota captures the world's attention

The squirrel was immediately cut off after nearly tipping over.

Screen Shot 2020-11-25 at 7.15.09 PM

Small town gym refusing to close facing lawsuit from attorney general

The gym is facing a lawsuit and a temporary restraining order to halt their operations.

credit card, payment

Money Gal Coaching: Bouncing back after living your best life

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

flickr-mall-of-america-mitchell-hirsch-march-2019

When do stores open on Black Friday this year?

Many major retailers will be open Black Friday, some for extended hours.

police tape, crime scene

Man found dead outside home near Cass Lake

The man was reportedly shot outside the property.

Minnesota_Welcome_Sign_-_Minnesota_Welcomes_You_-_Taylors_Falls_(28269804891)

Gov. Walz announces $1M in grants to boost Minnesota tourism

The money will be used for marketing efforts to attract people to Minnesota's hard-hit tourist spots.

coronavirus, ICU

Nov. 25 COVID-19 update: 72 deaths ties Minnesota's single-day high

A COVID-19 update will not be provided on Thanksgiving Day.

Texa-Tonka

Revival to open its fourth Twin Cities location

The fried chicken and smoked meat maestros are moving to St. Louis Park.

Related

Another step away from coal: MN Power plans a big new natural gas plant

They also have deals to buy more wind and solar energy.

1024px-Saint_paul_mn

St. Paul energy utility stops burning coal

District Energy heats and cools hundreds of homes in and around downtown.

Screen Shot 2019-05-20 at 11.00.15 AM

Xcel Energy to close its two remaining coal plants earlier than planned

The two Minnesota plants will close in 2028 and 2030, respectively.

A Minnesota college says it's getting all its power from the wind and sun

St. Olaf has a new wind power deal with Xcel Energy and says its electricity will be carbon free

Here's what Xcel Energy's plan for MN power plants means for you

Minnesota energy regulators are set to rule on Xcel Energy's plan to cut carbon emissions and boost renewable energy. Here's what it means.

Minnesota is now home to well over 100 renewable energy companies

The renewable energy sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in Minnesota.

Windows that catch rays – and make solar energy – are getting closer

Minnesota research may provide the key that makes solar windows practical.