The $30-million Fairmont Energy Station (FES), now under construction on an existing portion of power plant propetery was needed to replace retired generation, will provide up to 25 megawatts of high-efficiency, low-emissions energy. It’s SMMPA’s first new, conventional generation since completion of the Sherco 3 generating station in 1987.
On May 20, 2011, SMMPA closed on property needed to construct the facility in Fairmont, Minnesota, a SMMPA Member community. A majority of necessary demolition work was completed before winter in 2011 and construction on a new cold storage facility began immediately after. The Joseph Company of Austin, Minnesota, another SMMPA Member community, is the project’s Contractor and began construction of FES on October 15, 2012. On November 2, 2010 Fairmont voters passed a referendum to sell its power plant to SMMPA.
It has been SMMPA’s goal to seek as much work as possible from businesses in our Member communities. In addition to the Joseph Company of Austin those businesses/communities are: Dulas Excavating -Wells, Minnesota, Wells Concrete –Wells, Minnesota, Dewar Elect –Fairmont, Minnesota, and HIMEC Mechanical – Rochester, Minnesota.
Four gas-fired, reciprocating internal-combustion engines, built in Kiel, Germany, will increase diversity in the Agency’s portfolio and add operating flexibility – starting quickly when called upon and increasing reliability in Fairmont. These ultra-high-efficiency engines with the latest pollution-control equipment will reduce nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide by up to 90 percent. The project requires no additional transmission because 24.6 megawatts of inefficient steam generation in Fairmont was idled in 2009.
Once erected along the east side of the existing Fairmont power plant, the station will be run by four SMMPA technicians, including two formerly employed by Fairmont Public Utilities. The Agency is aiming to operate the new power station by fall 2013.
Important in the decision to site the energy station at Fairmont was existing infrastructure – natural gas, substation, switchgear and transmission. FES will strengthen Fairmont reliability as the existing 12 MW of diesel generation will be maintained after 25 MW of modern generation are added. The plant, as an intermediate load facility, is expected to operate approximately 20% of the time and will be crucial for supporting wind generation as it can start quickly when the wind subsides.
Jim Zarling, Fairmont City Administrator, said, “The significance of having sufficient generation in town to cover our needs is important. Also the sale has allowed us to acquire a space for relocation of our warehouse and distribution service that will provide increased efficiency for the department because we will have the ability to keep all of our inventory products in one location. We look forward to completing the FES project as we work closely with our partner SMMPA.” Fairmont Public Utilities provides electricity and related services to approximately 6,000 customers in the city of Fairmont, Minnesota.