City reps impressed with California biogas facility

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As the City of Benson explores potential replacement industries for Benson Power, LLC, it has been talking with Brightmark Energy about locating a methane digesting facility at the site.

Benson Power, a 55-megawatt power plant that produced power from woodchips and turkey litter, has been purchased by Xcel Energy and shut down. It employed 45 people fulltime and provided jobs to more than 100 other people in the region who provided its supply and service needs.

Xcel says the shut down of the power plant will save its customers $350 million in energy costs over the next decade. Benson Power’s electricity was far more expensive to produce than the rapidly growing wind and solar energy sources it is turning to for electricity.

Last month, the city sent Mayor Terri Collins, Council Member Jack Evenson and City Manager Rob Wolfington to California to meet with Brightmark Energy (BME) executives at their headquarters in downtown San Francisco. Evenson is also chair of the Benson Economic Development Authority.

During the meeting, they received an update on BME’s research into the potential for the Benson Power site for the production of methane – natural gas. BME has been researching the potential for the site for more than a year. Its representatives have made multiple trips to Benson.

From San Francisco, they traveled to Perris, CA, just to the southeast of Los Angeles to see the CR&R Environmental Services’ anaerobic digester facility.  One of the largest in the world, it produces gas from food waste and garbage collected from the region.

Anaerobic digestion is a biological process that uses microorganisms to breakdown biodegradable materials in the absence of oxygen to produce a biogas that is processed into natural gas. That gas can then be piped into a large pipeline for transportation. There are two natural gas pipelines that serve the region not far from the Benson Power site....


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