One of many large industrial facilities served by ITC Midwest transmission is the Heron Lake Bio Energy Plant, located just outside Heron Lake, Minnesota. The corn processing facility opened in 2007 and produces more than 65 million gallons of ethanol annually, buying 23 million bushels of corn each year from farmers in the region.
“Our facility runs 24/7, 365, so obviously it’s critical for us when bad weather strikes, whether that’s in the winter or spring, to maintain operations and not have equipment shut down., fault out, or have failures,” said Heron Lake Bio Energy Plant Manager Brodie McKeown. “Any time we can have increased run time is a benefit to the bottom line here at Heron Lake.”
When ITC Midwest took over the transmission system, Stakeholder Relations representative Keith Eyler began working with Brodie. In the early years, Brodie and his team experienced problems with momentary power outages. This resulted in significant production down time, created inefficiencies, increased cost, and generally caused a lot of headaches.
“We’ve started to have a pretty long working relationship with ITC. Through that, through the last few years, we’ve seen some upgrades in transmission lines, and I think that has positively benefitted Heron Lake Bio Energy with reduced down time. We are able to ride through some of the upsets. We have very good communication through ITC, both ways as far at shutdowns and maintenance that needs to be scheduled.”
The ITC Midwest team thoroughly analyzed the performance of the 69 kV line that supplies the Heron Lake Bio Energy Substation. To mitigate racoon interference, ITC Midwest installed animal protection on 108 structures of the Heron Lake to Windom 69 kV circuit, which solved the momentary interruption problems and greatly improved reliability.
In 2013, ITC Midwest rebuilt the transmission line, replacing the wooden poles with steel monopoles and double circuiting the 69 kV line with a 161 kV line. “I think when we saw the 69 kV line get upgraded, that seems like that has decreased our momentaries for sure. When the old lines were in place, minus the animal guarding or with the old insulators, I think maybe line slaps, some of the other things that caused momentaries here had a negative effect at the facility, on the equipment and also consistent operations. So once those upgrades were made by ITC, it seems to have decreased those if not eliminated most of them, so it’s been very positive.”
ITC Midwest is pleased to recognize Brodie and his team for successfully operating an ethanol production facility that provides value-added economic benefits. We look forward to continuing to work with Heron Lake Bio Energy and all of our stakeholders to ensure reliable service and long-term success.