Giving Thanks, but Not for Turkey-Powered Energy

Giving Thanks, but Not for Turkey-Powered Energy


Turkeys on a farm near Sauk Centre, Minn. “Turkey litter is a good fuel,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association. “It’s a valuable resource.”

Janet Hostetter/Associated Press

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This is a story of loggers, an energy company and turkey droppings — and a dispute that’s putting a dent in Minnesota’s Thanksgiving.

The company, Xcel Energy, wants to stop buying energy from three biofuel plants in Minnesota, one that runs on wood and turkey droppings and two others that run on wood only. The loggers, who risk losing their jobs, and turkey farmers, who would be left with a whole lot of surplus bird poop, are not happy.

Xcel says the energy it buys from the plants is too expensive. It wants to buy and shut down one plant and terminate contracts with the two others. Energy from the biomass plants costs 10 times more than wind-generated power, the utility estimates, and ditching them could save customers nearly $700 million over the next 11 years.

Loggers and truckers are suing Xcel in an effort to save the plants.

They say Xcel’s plan violates past agreements. The plants support at least 100 jobs, the loggers and truckers say, and bolster the state’s commitment to renewable energy. And without the biomass plants, Minnesota’s forests would be cluttered with damaged or low-grade trees for which there is little other use, decreasing the health of woodlands and increasing the risk of forest fires.


The power plant in Benson, Minn., that runs on wood and turkey droppings.

Ben Garvin for The New York Times

As for the farmers who send turkey droppings to the biomass incinerator, they would be stuck with an estimated 250,000 tons of turkey excrement per year.

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