Apparently, turkey poop is “not sexy”.
According to an article in the New York Times, an energy company named Xcel Energy is trying to stop buying electricity from a trio of biofuel plants based in Minnesota. Two of the biofuel plants run exclusively on scrap wood, while one of them (located in the town of Benson) uses both scrap wood and turkey droppings from local farmers. The turkey droppings are a major part of the plant’s operation; Steve Olson, who is the executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, says that turkey leavings are a valuable resource and a good, energy-dense fuel. According to the article, the plant uses roughly 250,000 tons of turkey poop in a year, which, if unconsumed, will rapidly become a major problem for the farmers who produce it as a byproduct.
Xcel Energy hopes to terminate two of the contracts it has signed with the plants and straight-up purchase the third plant and shut it down, as would be required by an agreement the company’s predecessor signed with the state of Minnesota in 1994. Despite the company’s apparent commitment to providing the state with energy from renewable sources, the relatively high cost of operating the biomass plants (estimated by Xcel Energy to be roughly ten times as expensive as wind-generated energy) has prompted them to make this decision. They claim that going through with their plan to switch to a cheaper (presumably also renewable) source will save citizens of Minnesota almost 700 million dollars over the next 11 years. Other concerns about the biomass plants exist as well; they produce a large amount of CO2 as a byproduct of burning their fuel, which led Clean Energy Economy Minnesota’s Logan O’Grady to remark that turkey poop is “not as sexy” as other renewable energy sources like wind and solar.
The company faces a lawsuit, however, being brought by the Associated Contract Loggers and Truckers of Minnesota (which represents workers and companies that cut down and transport the trees that supply the plants with scrap wood). They say that the plants represent over 100 jobs, and help keep Minnesota free of forest fire-causing damaged and fallen trees. The group also claims that Xcel Energy’s plan violates its past agreement with the state, which requires it to get regulatory approval to buy out purchasing agreements.