This year’s International Biomass Conference & Expo (IBCE) tours of local biomass facilities, as well as several days’ worth of conference panel discussions, seminars, and exhibitions. The conference took place on April 8-10 at the Minneapolis Convention Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and drew over 40 participants. These participants were able to enjoy tours of Koda Energy, LLC and Great River Energy on the conference’s opening day.

Koda Energy, LLC was the first stop on the IBCE’s biomass facilities tour. Koda Energy, LLC is a combined heat and power plant facility. The facility burns agricultural byproducts and raw materials, such as biosolids, dry grasses, and wood chips, in order to create steam. The steam is then used to generate electric and thermal energy.

Stacy Cook, vice president of operations at Koda Energy, LLC, led the tour. The tour began at the facility’s shipping building. Tour attendees were introduced to some basic facts about the company, including how many loads of biomass material Koda Energy receives daily (24), where the facility’s fuel originates, and how much biomass fuel the facility consumes each day (500 tons).

Tour attendees also visited Koda Energy’s storage silos, milling area, boiler facility, and generator housing unit. Attendees were able to view the entire biomass-to-energy conversion process. The process consists of grinding feedstock into a fine dust, burning it inside one of the facility’s six boilers, generating steam, and powering the facility’s turbine rotor in the generator housing unit, which simultaneously heats kilns for the production of malted barley and preheats the facility’s feedwater.


Pictured above is Koda Energy, LLC, a combined heat and power plant facility located in Shakopee, Minnesota. On average, the plant generates 12.5 megawatts of electric power. Credit: Koda Energy, LLC.

Next on the IBCE tour schedule was Great River Energy. Their Elk River Energy Recovery Station converts mixed municipal waste into refuse derived fuel (RDF). The station burns RDF in order to generate the steam that powers the plant’s generators.

Tour attendees were able to learn about the energy recovery station’s conservation process by listening to the company’s experts and viewing the different steps that the company follows to create energy from biomass.

The company’s process begins after local garbage haulers weigh in at the facility and then drive on to the plant’s tipping floor, where the waste is dumped. Crane operators sort through the waste to remove materials that are not able to be processed easily, such as pieces of cars, axles, and mattresses. This waste is separated from the rest of the garbage, shredded (after valuable metals have been removed), and then is sent to a flail mill. At the flail mill, the garbage is ground into smaller pieces by 150-pound hammers, aluminum and other ferrous metals are recovered, and non-combustible items like glass are removed. The remaining material is then transported to a power plant, where it is burned in one of the facility’s three boilers to steam. The steam, in turn, powers the plant’s generators.

In addition to touring Koda Energy, LLC and the Elk River Energy Recovery Station, conference attendees were also able to tour two other biomass facilities—the District Energy, St. Paul biomass plant and Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins—the day after the conference officially ended. Through the combustion of 280,000 tons of wood residue each year the CHP plant provides reliable, cost-effective heating to the commercial, residential and industrial buildings in downtown St. Paul and adjacent areas and 25 MW of electricity to the local grid. Target Field achieved Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) program, and it is the highest-ranked LEED-certified ballpark in the majors. Target Field also leads the way in transit, water use, and recycling. Tour attendees learned Target Field meets the many environmental challenges of a sports facility all while enjoying the ambiance of a building that sees roughly three million people pass through its doors.

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