Sherco coal power unit to fire up in March

A unit at the Xcel Energy Sherco coal-fired power plant is on schedule to be up and running by the end of March.

The plant in Becker, about 45 minutes northwest of the Twin Cities, was damaged after a mechanical failure caused a fire in November 2011.

The damage was estimated to be between $150 million and $200 million, most which is covered by insurance.

Plant director Ronald Brevig said crews are working around the clock to restore the damaged unit. He said despite the hot summer the company was able to use natural gas-generated power to cover the energy needs.

"This is probably the largest machine that we've experienced a failure on. We didn't have any injuries here," Bervig said. "The worst part about this is that it takes this high efficient machine out of service for our customers for over a year."

Xcel says the Sherco plant is the backbone of its system, capable of generating enough power for nearly two million homes.

The company is still investigating what caused the mechanical failure and subsequent fire.

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