Power outage: Explosives topple historic old Granite Falls power plant

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Demolition experts razed a disused power plant in western Minnesota on Thursday, using explosives to bring down two giant smokestacks and the nearly century-old Granite Falls building.

The sound of explosives was followed by the boom of the massive factory falling to the ground, echoing through the Minnesota River Valley as a cloud of dust rose into the air and crowds watched in the distance safe.

Courtesy of Xcel Energy

On Thursday, Xcel Energy used explosives to demolish the Minnesota Valley Power Plant in Granite Falls, Minnesota.

“We brought two chimneys and the entire building safely to the site,” said John Marshall, regional vice president of Xcel Energy, owner of the Minnesota Valley Power Plant.

Xcel Energy’s coal-fired plant dated back to the 1930s and closed permanently in 2009 as part of the ongoing transition to cleaner energy sources.

In a series of stills from a video, two smokestacks fall to the ground during the demolition of Xcel Energy’s Minnesota Valley Power Plant in Granite Falls, Minnesota on Thursday.

Courtesy of Nathan Dahlager

The company had been cleaning up the facility for years, Marshall said, removing asbestos and other hazardous materials to prepare for demolition of the plant.

He was finally ready to be shot on Thursday, with the help of contractor Veit. Police cleared a large area and blocked traffic on US Highway 212 alongside the plant.

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“We did a 10-minute countdown, so it’s basically a 10-minute layoff on the freeway, then a safety countdown, then the implosion explosion, this which was quite a sight to behold,” he said. “There were a lot of people who showed up from surrounding communities to watch. And again – very, very happy that it was a safe event, and now begins the recycling process.

This process will include “mining all the bricks, steel and metals therein, along with the concrete, and then preparing to remediate the land,” Marshall said.

A power plant dominates the surrounding landscape

The old Minnesota Valley Powerhouse at Granite Falls towers over the surrounding river valley in this December 2020 view.

Andrew Kruger | MPR news file

He said the area will still host a working electrical substation and transmission lines, but the plant site will likely be seeded with prairie grass.

The implosion of the power plant marked the end of an era for the community of Granite Falls. Generations of local residents worked in the waterfront plant, originally built by Northern States Power, which towered over the surrounding landscape.

Granite Falls high school teams had long been known as the Kilowatts, and an amateur baseball team in the town still bears that name.

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