Koda Energy biomass facility to begin final testing

By Susanne Retka Schill
Web exclusive posted Nov. 21, 2008 at 10:52 a.m. CST

Koda Energy LLC will conduct a steam blow the first week of December as it prepares to start up its biomass facility on the Rahr Malting Co. campus in Shakopee, Minn. Koda Energy is a joint venture between Rahr and the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community.

The project's name comes from the word "koda" which means "friend" in the Dakota language.

The steam blow is a necessary part of the construction and testing process for the $60 million facility. During boiler construction, miles of various sizes and shapes of stainless steel and black iron pipes are welded together. The steam blow will remove any contamination by releasing steam through the pipes and then out a diverter pipe at the last minute before reaching the turbine blades. Koda Energy explained the process in a news release to alert the Shakopee community prior to the testing. The facility is built on the edge of a residential area, and is designed to operate quietly.

The project will be the first of its type using 100 percent biomass in a McBurney high pressure biomass boiler. The system will have a 24 megawatt per hour generating capacity, which will power Koda Energy, as well as the adjacent Rahr Malting plant. Approximately half the power will be sold to Xcel Energy. Waste heat from the boiler will be recycled back to Rahr, replacing the natural gas used in the malting process.

Feedstocks are expected to come from within 50 miles of the facility which sits on the southwest edge of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Feedstocks will include dust from the malting plant, oat hulls supplied by General Mill's cereal processing plant, clean wood chips and other dry agricultural biomass.

The long range plans for the Shakopee Mdewakanton community include supplying the biomass power plant with prairie grass harvested from restored prairie plantings on tribal land. This past summer, the community restored 400 acres of former farmland to native prairie in a cooperative project with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota. The project includes research on 40-acre parcels where various mixes of grasses are being grown to determine which mix of seed produces the most biomass containing the highest energy content. The project is building on the work done by University of Minnesota ecologist David Tillman in studying mixes of prairie grasses and which ones might work best for biomass and cellulosic ethanol projects.

The biomass power unit is one of several renewable energy projects being developed by the Shakopee Mdewakanton tribe, which has been investing profits from its successful casino operation and other enterprises into infrastructure improvements. For more information on the Shakopee Mdewakanton projects visit www.shakopeedakota.org.