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Published June 10, 2009, 09:30 PM

Power plant company expects 500 workers

SPIRITWOOD, N.D. (AP) — After a tough winter and a mud-filled spring, Great River Energy is trying to make up for lost time in building its $276 million power plant.

SPIRITWOOD, N.D. (AP) — After a tough winter and a mud-filled spring, Great River Energy is trying to make up for lost time in building its $276 million power plant.

Construction site manager Dennis Pozarnsky said 300 workers were on the site Monday, about 10 miles east of Jamestown, and about 20 a day are being added until the number reaches 500.

"By winter, we have to be enclosed," he said, then joked, "And winter could happen any day now."

Spring flooding left mud about 3 feet deep and made the site dangerous for workers and equipment. It was shut down for a couple of weeks in April and early May for safety reasons.

"We did a lot of site work on the drainage," Pozarnsky said. "For two, three weeks, it was very unsafe on the site."

The original deadline for completion of the coal-fired power plant was March 31, 2010. That has changed.

"Now we're shooting for summer," Pozarnsky said. "We'll be up and running in spring and testing all summer. Our first commercial operations day is Oct. 1. That's the date on our contract obligation with Cargill for steam."

Great River, based in Maple Grove, Minn., will have two sources of gray water when it goes online next fall. Both will need treatment to get clean enough for the boilers. Trenches and pipe are going in now from Cargill's malting plant lagoons to the power plant. The Stutsman Rural Water District also has started work on pipes to carry and return water from the Jamestown Wastewater Treatment Plant.

"We'll combine the two sources of water or use whichever is easiest at the time," Pozarnsky said.

Otter Tail Power Co. is expanding its nearby substation to handle 60 megawatts of electricity generated at Great River's Spiritwood Station.

Workers have been readying the silo foundations for concrete.

"There will be a lot of concrete trucks here next week, so there's a lot of ground work going on right now," Pozarnsky said.

One silo is for coal storage. A conveyor belt will feed the silo from train cars. A second is a limestone silo for air quality.

"The limestone knocks down and collects sulfur dioxide. It helps clean the air," Pozarnsky said.

A bag house next to the limestone silo will further clean the air before it goes out the stack.

When construction is completed, Pozarnsky will switch hats from site manager to plant manager. He's an engineer with 25 years of experience in building power plants and working in them.

"Safety is an issue when you ramp up fast," he said. "We've gone 587,000 man hours without a lost-time accident and we're going to continue that."

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