Minnesota casino contemplates biomass heat

By Anna Simet | July 03, 2014

For the past couple of years, the White Earth Nation of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe has been contemplating installation a biomass power system for its Shooting Star Casino and Event Center in Mahnomen, Minnesota, and was recently issued a minor new source review construction permit by the U.S. EPA.

The casino is located on the reservation of the White Earth Nation, which owns and operates the facility. Currently on site are two fuel oil-fired boilers and two propane-fired boilers that are used for space heating. The final minor NSR construction permit authorizes the construction of a new, 5 MMBtu/hr Solagen biomass-fired boiler, and establishes annual operating hour limitations on the new and existing boilers at the casino.

The new biomass boiler will be used to provide heat to the hotel, casino and event center, while the existing four boilers will serve as a backup to the new biomass-fired boiler.

According to a feasibility study performed on the project, a payback could be achieved in about one year and potentially save the casino over $500,000 annually on heating costs.

Mike Triplett, economic development department planner for the White Earth Reservation Tribal Council, said that the council was awaiting response from the U.S. DOE in regard to additional funding for the project before the ultimate decision to move forward is made. “Hopefully, that decision will be made by the end of September,” he said, adding that if that were the case, he expects it would be about two years before the facility was operating.

Fuel for the facility must be wood chips from conifer or deciduous trees, according to permit data. Triplett said it would likely come from the greater Bemidji, Park Rapids area, but no contracts have been made yet.