Granite Falls Energy plans expansion to 70 mmgy


In the aftermath of the tornado that ravaged Granite Falls a decade ago, a group of rural leaders backed a vision to create a locally-owned ethanol plant. The success of the venture is underlined by its latest decision to expand the plant from a nameplate of 49.1 million gallons up to 70 million gallons of production per year.

The plant’s success as an economic engine in the community has won it broad support. This was most recently demonstrated at a meeting of the Yellow Medicine County board of commissioners. GFE General Manager Tracey Olson asked the commissioners for support for the expansion and the body agreed to publish a letter of support.

“Granite Falls Energy, like many of the locally owned ethanol producers across Minnesota, came along at just the right time to revive the economic vitality of its community,” said Greg Schwarz, president of Minnesota Corn Growers Association, a crop and livestock farmer and ethanol plant investor. “By strengthening the price for grain locally, and adding value locally, we create a whole new source of income and high paying jobs. The profits from ethanol pour right back into main street businesses and that has brought billions in economic activity to Minnesota since farmer-owned ethanol plants got started in the mid 1990s.”

According to Schwarz, who was a founder of Heartland Corn Products in Winthrop and continues to have a leadership role in that ethanol company, Minnesota needs to remove the obstacles to further growth in the ethanol industry.

“It’s an industry that has proved itself as a valuable partner with Minnesota’s farmers, and also a willing partner with government in efforts to assure that ethanol has a minimal environmental impact,” said Schwarz. “Compare ethanol to any other energy industry–oil refining, coal- or natural gas-fired electric generation, nuclear–ethanol has an outstanding record. We’re taking the energy of the sun captured by grain and making high performance fuel–Indy and NASCAR use ethanol now. And best of all, we make it right here, instead of importing it. That keeps jobs and dollars right here.”

The Yellow Medicine County commissioners also supported GFE’s position opposing Xcel Energy’s plans to remove the Minnesota Falls Dam. Because the ethanol plant derives its water supply from the river and has high-cost pump station infrastructure located along the river, there is concern about changes in the flow of the water course.

The Granite Falls Advocate Tribune noted in a recent report that: “(GFE) spent approximately $11 million in 2006 to install the intake, pump facility and water purification system that allows it to use the river water. If the dam were removed, the water level at the site would drop 14.5 feet leaving the intake completely out of the water during low flows and effectively useless.”

The newspaper reported that GFE is considering taking legal action in the matter.

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has completed an environmental assessment worksheet on the plant expansion and is currently entertaining public comments (through January 26). Read the Advocate Tribune coverage at


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