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Great River Energy to shutter Coal Creek plant in 2022

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Minnesota-based Great River Energy will be shutting down its Coal Creek Station power plant near Underwood in the second half of 2022.

Coal Creek went into service in 1979. It is North Dakota’s largest power plant, producing 1,151 megawatts of power from lignite coal.

Great River President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau called it an economic decision.

"Coal Creek Station is a safe, efficient and well-run plant," Saggau said. "However, it has lost value compared to other alternatives in recent years."

Saggau said Great River is planning to replace that power with 1100 megawatts of wind that it will buy. In addition, the 99 megawatt Spiritwood Station near Jamestown will be converted completely to natural gas. And GRE plans to repower the Blue Flint biorefinery, co-located with Coal Creek, to use natural gas in its refining process.

Saggau said the plans are to dismantle the plant.  He said the company has had discussions about selling the plant, or just giving it away – but those have not been successful.

"The production costs of that particular plant are much higher than what the market values it at," Saggau said. "The losses we're avoiding by closing the plant are losses that a purchaser would have to incur to take over ownership."

Saggau said GRE is not closing the door on the potential sale or gifting of the plant.

"we're not holding out a lot of hope," Saggau said.

About 260 people work at the power plant.

Saggau said Great River has committed to paying $15 million a year for five years to McLean County and surrounding communities, after the plant closes.

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