Frank Fredrickson, general manager of Minnesota Power, interviewed with Jim Gullickson on air with the Rural Minnesota Radio. Fredrickson uses this platform to increase awareness about Bioenergy Day, and the advantages bioenergy offers to local communities, he says, “One of the things I like to share with people about biomass for renewable energy is that it has the highest impact for local jobs and local economies… it really has a great benefit to our rural economy.”
Visit the radio’s website to hear Part I and II of Fredrickson and Gullickson’s discussion, as well as other news covered by the station. Below is a transcription of Renewable Energy in Northeast Minnesota, Part II.
“Jim: Welcome to Rural Minnesota Radio, a collaboration between the Center for Rural Policy and Development, and Minnesota State University in Mankato. I’m Jim Gullickson and joining me by phone today is Frank Fredrickson. He’s the general manager of Minnesota Power hydro and biomass renewable operations. Welcome to the program Frank, good to have you on board.
Frank: Thank you, appreciate the opportunity.
Jim: Now Frank, last week we talked a bit about biomass and the fact that you folks use forest residue from the forest products industry, which is prevalent in northern Minnesota, and turn that into steam which powers the turbines and makes electricity and that sort of thing. It’s a renewable energy, as you were pointing out. Another area that your company is strong in is hydroelectric, is that still true today?
Frank: Yes it is, Minnesota Power started as a hydro electric utility. So about up until 1930 we were 100% renewable, 100% hydro, so I like to tell people that we were renewable before it was cool. Since then, we still retain 5% of our energy from hydro; we’re the largest operator for hydroelectric resources in the state of Minnesota.
Jim: So where are some of these hydro plants located?
Frank: Where there [are] rivers and where there [are] changes in elevation. Our largest facility is located inside Jay Cooke State Park. That state park was created from land donated from Minnesota Power’s predecessor in the creation of that hydro resource. So we call that our Thompson Hydro facility, it’s capable of over 72 megawatts of generation and it counts for over two thirds of our hydro capability. But we have 11 facilities across the state, spread out on different watersheds. We have one on the northern watershed just east of Ely – our Winton facility. We have several facilities on the Mississippi watershed, along the Grand Rapids area and then again down around Little Falls and Brainerd area. We have facilities on the St. Louis River watershed, and that all flows through that facility and Thompson in Fond du Lac communities. We have facilities on the Gull River, we call them our Pillager and our Sylvan facilities. Pillager and Sylvan are located west of Brayden Baxter.
One of the things that I wanted to cover on Bioenergy, in terms of the jobs impact, [is] our facilities: our biomass facilities directly employee approximately 80 people. When you factor in our contracted loggers and services, that number easily doubles. One of the things I like to share with people about biomass for renewable energy is that it has the highest impact for local jobs and local economies, particularly when you factor that nearly all the fuel procured for the facility is done within a 100 mile radius. So it really has a great benefit to our rural economy. In October, the Biomass Power Association is hosting its 4th annual National Bioenergy day on October 19th 2016, and that’s something we like to encourage people to go to www.bioenergyday.com to learn more bioenergy and its impact on our communities.
Jim: Thanks Frank, it has been educational and we really appreciate your time.
Frank: Thank you very much.
Jim: This has been Minnesota Radio. We’ll catch you next week.”