Riverside Ribbon Cutting

Yesterday afternoon I attended the opening ceremony for the Riverside Powerplant’s conversion from coal to natural gas. It was awesome to hear the President of the Marshall Terrace neighborhood association commend Xcel for their cooperation and partnership. Too often, neighborhood groups face big corporations as enemies. The Riverside Plant is proof that this attitude is not necessary. Businesses and even the heaviest of industry can be partners and neighbors with residents. This is an essential point to keep in mind as we work to improve Central Avenue. Certainly, the difficulties will be smaller in Shoreham Yards.

I don’t live in Marshall Terrace, so I did not understand the costs the plant imposed on the neighborhood. When I first heard about the conversion, it seemed silly. The USA has so much coal, and we keep hearing about dwindling supplies of oil and gas. Minneapolis needs electric power, and it appeared to make more sense to generate that power with a more reliable and cheaper fuel. I felt for the neighbors, but whatever the costs, they had been part of the bargain all property owners assumed when buying next to a coal powerplant.

I have learned. Natural gas is relatively abundant and can be delivered at reasonable cost. The coal soot problem was a genuine health issue, not just an inconvenience. And the conversion included a small up-rating of the plant’s capacity, so we get more electricity. It’s a triple-win situation.

It’s not immediately obvious, but the conversion has created wealth and value. For the little guy, the Marshall Terrace resident. With no more soot and no more coal trains, living in that neighborhood is more attractive. Beside the river and close to downtown, I envision a flourishing in this small Northeast community. Property appreciation is usually gradual, and the current economy may hinder it for a while, but in a long-term planner’s view, this is great news for Northeast and all of our city.

As far as I could see, I was the only candidate who showed up. But this one I cannot claim is entirely due to my devotion to being the best informed and best conneced candidate in the race. I think powerplants are cool. And for those who love infrastructure, you missed a peek inside one of the mills that make our metropolis work.

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