Video: Explosives topple landmark former power plant in Granite Falls

Xcel Energy demolished the Minnesota Valley Generating Plant
Xcel Energy used explosives to demolish the landmark Minnesota Valley Generating Plant in Granite Falls, Minn., on Thursday.
Courtesy of Xcel Energy

Demolition experts leveled a decommissioned power plant in western Minnesota on Thursday, using explosives to bring down two giant smokestacks and the nearly century-old building in Granite Falls.

The sound of the explosives was followed by the boom of the massive plant tumbling to the ground, echoing through the Minnesota River Valley as a cloud of dust rose into the air and crowds looked on from a safe distance.

Courtesy of Xcel Energy
Xcel Energy used explosives to demolish the landmark Minnesota Valley Generating Plant in Granite Falls, Minn., on Thursday.

“We dropped two stacks and the whole building safely and securely onto the site,” said John Marshall, regional vice president for Xcel Energy, which owned the Minnesota Valley Generating Station.

The coal-fired Xcel Energy plant dated back to the 1930s and closed for good in 2009 amid the ongoing shift to cleaner energy sources.

Two smokestacks fall to the ground during demolition
In a series of still frames from video, two smokestacks fall to the ground during demolition of Xcel Energy's Minnesota Valley Generating Station in Granite Falls, Minn., on Thursday.
Courtesy of Nathan Dahlager

The company had been clearing out the facility for years, Marshall said, removing asbestos and other hazardous materials to prepare the plant to be demolished.

It was finally ready to bring down Thursday, with help from contractor Veit. Police cleared out a wide area, and blocked traffic on U.S. Highway 212 alongside the plant.

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“We conducted a 10-minute countdown, so it’s basically a 10-minute disruption on the highway, and then a safety countdown, and then cue the implosion blast, which was quite a spectacle to see,” he said. “There was a lot of folks that showed up from the surrounding communities to watch. And again — very, very happy that it was a safe occurrence, and now begins the process for recycling.”

That process will include “pulling out all the brick and the steel and metals in there, and the concrete, and then preparing to remediate the land,” Marshall said.

A power plant towers above the surrounding landscape
The landmark former Minnesota Valley Generating Plant in Granite Falls towers over the surrounding river valley in this view from December 2020.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News file

He said the area will still host an operating electrical substation and transmission lines, but the plant site will likely eventually be seeded with prairie grass.

The implosion of the power plant marked the end of an era for the Granite Falls community. Generations of local residents worked in the riverside plant, initially built by Northern States Power, that towered above the surrounding landscape.

Granite Falls’ high school teams were long known as the Kilowatts, and an amateur baseball team in the city still carries the name.