Area leaders celebrate $2.75 million upgrade to Granite Falls hydro-electric plant

Kyle Klausing
The Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski cuts the ribbon after Granite Falls was awarded $2.75 million for updates to their hydro-electric plant.

     Local and state officials met in Granite Falls on Monday, October 19 to celebrate something that now seems like a rare occurrence in our era hyper-partisan politics - bipartisan funding in the amount of $2.75 million to upgrade Granite Falls’ hydroelectric plant. Elected state officials in attendance for the ribbon-cutting ceremony were Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, Sen. Gary Dahms, R-Redwood Falls, and Sen. Andrew Lang, R-Olivia. They started their visit with lunch at the Granite Falls City Hall before taking a tour of the plant on the other side of the river.

     According to municipal officials, Granite Falls expects to make roughly $400,000 worth of much needed repairs at its hydroelectric plant. These repairs will better protect both the hydroelectric generators and the dam on the Minnesota River. The remaining $2.35 million will go towards replacing one of the plant’s three turbines. The new machinery will augment the plant’s hydroelectric capacity from 0.8 megawatts to 1.5 megawatts or more. “We just want to say thank you, to you four and the entire Legislature,” said Granite Falls Mayor Smiglewski. “For us, our $2.7 million is a pretty big deal.”

     Funding for the project is being provided by the state’s Renewable Development Account (RDA). The RDA receives annual payments from Xcel Energy for nuclear waste storage at Xcel’s nuclear power plants in Minnesota.

    Currently, the project is still in the design phase. Later that evening, the Granite Falls Council voted unanimously to move forward with the bid process.

    Mayor smiglewski said that the ability to produce more electricity at the municipal plant will help offset the loss of property tax revenue from the former coal-fired Xcel Energy plant in Granite Falls. The shuttered Xcel plant is now considered “retired space,” changing its tax value and resulting in a decline of almost 31%. This resulted in the city loosing nearly $112,000 in property taxes. As a means of covering this loss, the city of Granite Falls increased the amount of money it transferred to the general fund from the earnings of the municipal electric system by $100,000, going from $225,000 in 2019 to $325,000 in 2020. Mayor Smiglewski added that the old Xcel plant will be coming down in 2022.

Front, left and right: State Rep. Steve Swedzinski and State Sen. Gary Dahms inspecting the dam.