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Explosives topple former coal-fired power plant in Minnesota

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GRANITE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — A decommissioned coal-fired power plant in western Minnesota crashed to the ground with a thunderous boom as part of a planned implosion that marks the end of an era in Granite Falls.

Xcel Energy — the utility company that owns the Minnesota Valley Generating Station — used explosives Thursday morning to implode the nearly century-old structure as onlookers watched from a distance.

Video from onlooker Nathan Dahlager shows a flash of bright orange light and a loud crack at the base of the massive plant. With an even louder crash, two towering smokestacks toppled as the rest of the building collapsed. Black debris flew in the air as dark smoke filled the space where the structure stood just moments before. Dahlager posted the video to Twitter with a caption: “Landmark in our community reduced to dust! Really neat to watch.”

The coal-fired plant dated back to the 1930s and closed in 2009 amid the ongoing shift to cleaner energy sources, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. Built by Northern States Power, the plant had employed people in the town for generations. High school teams in the area were even known as the Kilowatts, in a nod to the landmark.

John Marshall, regional vice president for Xcel Energy, said he is happy the demolition was safe. He said the company has been preparing for the demolition for years by removing asbestos and other hazardous materials from the site. Marshall said the company will now clean up and recycle the concrete, brick and metal from the plant’s structure.

The area will still host an operating electrical substation and transmission lines, but the plant site will likely be seeded with prairie grass and restored with vegetation, Marshall said.

Many former power plants have been destroyed in recent years. As part of its transition away from coal and toward cleaner fuel options, the Tennessee Valley Authority used dynamite to demolish an old fossil plant in Alabama last year. Similar demolitions also happened in Florida, Arizona and Illinois.

A similar power plant removal is happening in Genoa, south of La Crosse.  Parts of the former Dairyland coal-fired plant along Highway 35 have been torn down this month, and more demolition is planned next year.  The Genoa plant opened in 1969, and operated until last year.

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