For a small bug, the emerald ash borer is certainly making big changes to the state’s landscape. Many neighborhoods that were tree-lined and verdant just weeks ago now have empty boulevards and full views of the sky.
So what happens to all those trees cut down to contain the infestation of insects? In the Twin Cities area, the primary destination is the District Energy plant in Downtown St. Paul. There, that waste wood is burned to create energy. Some of it is used to heat and cool a section of the city that includes the State Capitol complex.
But it’s also converted to electricity that’s purchased by Xcel Energy, which provides electrical service to much of Minnesota. And that relationship would continue through 2024 under a bill passed 87-46 by the House Saturday. HF1255/SF1047*, sponsored by Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) and Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester), was passed 66-0 by the Senate May 6, so it’s on its way to the governor’s desk.
The bill would require the plant to continue using waste wood as its primary fuel source and require Xcel Energy to pay less for the electricity than under the existing agreement.