When the generators are running inside Windom's Municipal Power and Light it's so loud, everyone is required to wear earplugs. Electric utilities manager Marv Grunig says, "Really in the last few years we haven't used them very much, and in fact as backup power we haven't used them at all."
And now a new EPA rule requires Windom's Utility commission to spend $200,000 on catalytic converters for it's three diesel generators. Grunig says, "It burns more carbon so then your emissions is less. It's exactly like your car or your truck."
The city had two options: save money and use the generators for emergencies only or take money out of the utility's 5 million dollar reserve account and make the upgrade. Nasby says, "It's either do it or take a wait and see approach and we like to be proactive and be on the head of the curve, which is why we're taking the steps that we have."
The cost of putting catalytic converters on these generators may seem like a lot of money but city officials say the $200,000 is an investment that will save residents money in the future on their energy bills.
Grunig says the market price of energy can range from 30 to 300 dollars for a megawatt hour, but running the generator costs a consistent 150 dollars per megawatt hour. Grunig says, "Well if it gets too high then we can start our generators and protect our customers from those high price spikes."
With a 99 percent reliability rate Grunig says the utility commission's main priorities are continuing quality service and keeping energy costs consistent.