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Prairieland gets deal done

November 29, 2011
Jenn Brookens - Staff Writer , Fairmont Sentinel

TRUMAN - Prairieland Solid Waste Management has finalized a deal with Xcel Energy to deliver refuse-derived fuel to Xcel's Wilmarth Power Plant in Mankato.

Since Prairieland began operating 20 years ago, the Truman facility has processed trash from Martin and Faribault counties to recover compost, recyclable metals and RDF. The idea was to reduce the amount of garbage being buried in landfills and instead convert some garbage to resources and energy. Landfilling was reduced by 69 percent during that time, with 218,000 tons of garbage being converted to compost, RDF or recycling.

But it has always been a costly project. Attempts to make the compost marketable were unsuccessful.

In 2009, commissioners from Martin and Faribault counties tasked Prairieland to restructure and make the facility more cost-effective, and avoid increased fees and charges to the public.

The agreement with Xcel eliminates the composting program and could save Prairieland millions of dollars. The composting equipment was due for an expensive recommissioning, plus elimination of composting reduces operational costs.

While the contract does not take effect until Jan. 1, the facility is already seeing positive results. During October - thanks in part to a new "shredder" purchased earlier this year - the facility saw nearly 90 percent of its garbage diverted away from being landfilled.

"We could start seeing this 85 to 90 percent as the norm," Prairieland manager Mark Baumann told the board of directors earlier this month.

The agreement with Xcel allows more refuse to be used for fuel, increases the recovery of fuel for energy, increases recycling, and provides cost control for the public and waste haulers using the facility.

The plant already is preparing for needed renovations, which were approved at last month's board meeting.

"There's the matter of redirection of some of the conveyors, putting in some additional conveyors ... We will also need to allow for bigger pieces, but nothing more than 6 or 8 inches wide or long," Baumann said.

The contract with Xcel has been a long work in progress, but Baumann is optimistic about what it will mean for Prairieland.

"It's been about a year since we started talking to Xcel," he said. "But we finally got it done."

Prairieland is a joint project of Martin and Faribault counties. County commissioners from both serve as the board of directors at the facility.



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