Coal Creek and Falkirk Mine

August 30th, 2006

Long long day, but hey, I gots me a lump or two of coal!!


Suffice it to say, I’ve got issues with coal, and am disturbed at the line of coal plants waiting in the MISO queue: Active & Done MISO Queue Last I checked, there was over 20,000MW of coal sitting and waiting, and if they build even 1/3 of it, that’s too much in my book.  This has been a concern of mine since that 2002 SW MN study that had the big list of coal plants waiting in queue, and which would be the first on line if the SW transmission line was built (See p. 29-30 of the study) Oh well…

Here’s Coal Creek on the way up:


As we drove to Coal Creek, past wind turbines to the east, our local host told us about a fire at his father’s farm, a victim of the extremely dry summer, most of the outbuildings were lost, and we saw the result first hand at 70 mph. Here are the depressing photos of the fire. (after that, cheer yourself up with some others from this site,, a detailed view of life on the prairie, on that farm.) The previous day, a fire had started at the rest area while we were there, and quickly took over a field.

Anyway, back to lumps of coal. Today’s coal was picked fresh today from the Falkirk mine. But that was a bit much in the propaganda department, so enough of that…


On to Coal Creek. That was another, suprisingly very little in the way of hype and propaganda, and a realistic assessment/appraisal of coal in 2006, of course from a coal generating plant perspective, but the direct approach was refreshing. We had a tour of the plant, and other than being terrified on the 8th and 21st floor with nothing but a flimsey grate underfoot, it was great. Coal Creek is a 1,180MW two unit pulverized coal generating plant that, when built, cost $750 million. There are 210 employees. Coal Creek is a twin of another twin, Sherco, same design, essentially. There have been some changes that lowered nasty emissions, and there will be a couple more in over the next four years that will increase output by 30MW for each generator.

Here’s the control room, in the background in the tan metal is the old control room, with manual switches and gauges, some of which is still used today, but as you can see, it’s mostly computerized, down to operation of process water seven miles away at the river.


This is a scene as I remember from power plant tours as a kid… generators in a huge room, apparently all that space is for when they tear it down and like my little bro’ and my ’64 Galaxie, parts go all over the floor. Here’s the scary part, up on the 21st floor:


They’re doing a coal drying experiment, funded by the DOE that not only reduces the moisture of the coal, but increases efficiency of about 5% and redused emissions, some significant. It’s a cooperative agreement, not a grant, but an interest free loan.


We also got the poop on another GRE effort, called Blue Flint, which is cogeneration for ethanol production, a plant permitted for 65 million gallons, and planned for 50 million gallons annually. It’s being built now, pieces arrive regularly. It’s the stuff in the 21st floor photo that’s in front of the ponds.

Even better, I gots me a coal plant carved out of coal. Way cool…
More on all this manana… it’s tired out.

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