Northern States Power Company

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Northern States Power Company (NSP) was a publicly-traded Standard & Poors 500 electric and natural gas utility holding company based in Minneapolis, Minnesota that is now a subsidiary of Xcel Energy.

Existing Coal Plants

Northern States Power Company Facilities: [1]

Plant State Year(s) Built Capacity
Black Dog Generating Station MN 1955, 1960 294 MW
High Bridge Generating Plant MN 1956, 1959 277 MW
Allen S. King Generating Plant MN 1958 598 MW
Riverside Generating Plant (Minnesota) MN 1964, 1987 404 MW
Sherburne County Plant MN 1976, 1977, 1987 2,129 MW

More about the plants:[1]

  • Black Dog Generating Station is near Burnsville, Minnesota. Western coal powers Units 1-4, and natural gas operates Unit 5. All four original Black Dog units were built in the 1950s, and by 1960 Black Dog was the second largest base load plant in what was then the Northern States Power system, a predecessor to Xcel Energy.
  • High Bridge Generating Plant is in St. Paul, Minnesota. Built in 1923 as a coal-powered operation, the High Bridge plant, along with Riverside in Minneapolis, once formed the hub of Northern States Power Company, the predecessor to Xcel Energy. The original plant was replaced with a new natural gas fired generating facility starting in 2005 as part of Xcel Energy's Metro Emission Reduction Project, and the coal-fired plant was retired in 2007 as the new facility came on line in May 2008.
  • Allen S. King Generating Plant is a single-unit plant near Bayport, Minnesota. The plant uses low sulfur Wyoming coal. The original King unit went into service in 1968 and was completely rehabilitated from 2004-2007 as part of Xcel Energy's Metro Emissions Reduction Project.
  • Riverside Generating Plant (Minnesota) is in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Built in 1911, the original coal-powered station was the oldest in the Xcel Energy system. The original plant was replaced with a new natural gas fired facility starting in 2006 as part of Xcel Energy’s Metro Emissions Reduction Project, and the coal-fired plant was retired as the new facility came on line in April 2009. Family homes are only a few yards away.
  • Sherburne County Plant is near Becker, Minnesota. The station uses low-sulfur Western coal from mines in Montana and Wyoming. The plant burns 30,000 tons of coal every day (three trainloads) and more than 9 million tons a year. A rotary car dumper, which literally turns a rail coal car upside down, unloads one car every three minutes and an entire train in just over six hours. Sherco Units 1 and 2 were built in the 1970s and constructed on a 4,500-acre site to accommodate future expansion. A third unit was built in 1983-1987, which at the time marked the largest construction project ever in the state of Minnesota. Unit 3 cost approximately $1 billion to build and is 41 percent owned by Southern Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, composed of municipal power companies operating on a cooperative basis. Sherco’s boilers are more than 200 feet tall.

Proposed coal unit closures

Black Dog

In September 2010, the Black Dog Generating Station was shut down following a fire and subsequent explosion at the plant’s 108-megawatt Unit 3 burner. Workers at the plant noticed smoldering in a coal hopper and notified Burnsville emergency services. Response crews were on the scene when contents of the bin fully ignited, resulting in an explosion that blew out some 200 feet of the plant’s west-facing wall. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries, none of the plants employees were hurt. The power plant will remain offline as officials from Xcel, the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and Burnsville Fire Department determine the cause of the blast. Company officials stated that services will not be interrupted because power is being routed from an alternate source to serve customers.[2]

Xcel currently has a proposal pending with the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to retire Black Dog's two remaining coal-fired boilers (units 3 and 4), converting them to natural gas combined-cycle units by 2016.[2]


Northern States Power Company was originally called the Consumers Power Company - one of several divisions within H. M. Byllesby's vast public utility empire - but changed its name to NSP in 1916 (possibly to avoid confusion with an identically named company in Michigan). While the bulk of NSP's territory grew across central and southern Minnesota (starting from the Twin Cities), it acquired territory in North Dakota (centering around Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot) and grew southwest into South Dakota (centering around Sioux Falls). Its territory extended east into Wisconsin as well, but due to state regulations requiring local ownership of all utilities, these operations were under a separate subsidiary: Northern States Power-Wisconsin. This latter subsidiary extended east into northern neighboring Upper Peninsula of Michigan, bounded between Lake Michigan and Lake Superior around 1995.[3]

By 1986, the company had grown to be included among the S&P 500 list of 500 of the largest companies in the United States. By that time it had accumulated nearly $1.2 billion in long-term debt.[3]

Primergy merger

On May 3, 1995, Northern States Power Company and its neighboring Wisconsin Energy Corporation each filed a Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K to combine in a merger-of-equals transaction to form Primergy Corporation, which would be a registered public utility holding company, and to be the new parent of both NSP and of the operating subsidiaries of WEC. It would be the tenth largest investor-owned electric and gas utility company in the United States, based on market capitalization at that time of about US$6.0 billion, and with 1994 combined revenues of US$4.2 billion and with total assets of more than US$10.0 billion.[3]

Wisconsin Energy's two then-existing utility subsidiaries, Wisconsin Electric Power Company (WEPCO) and Wisconsin Natural Gas Company (WNG) were to be consolidated under a new subsidiary name, Wisconsin Energy Company. Under that name, it and Northern States Power Company would continue to operate as the two principal subsidiaries of Primergy Corp. Also, NSP-Wisconsin would merge into the operating subsidiary Wisconsin Energy Company. The merger deal was expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 1996.[3]

By 1997, approvals had been granted by the state regulatory commissions in Michigan and North Dakota, but not by the commissions in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Approvals from the Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice were still pending.[4] The delay had put the merger five months behind schedule and had reduced earnings for both utilities by a total of US$58 million to that point. Adding to the discomfort was a growing gap between the performance of the two companies by early 1997. Wisconsin Energy's stock had by then fallen about 13% since early 1995 when the deal had been announced, due to other ongoing problems that had developed within the company, including issues with its Point Beach Nuclear Generating Station in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. But Northern States Power's stock had risen by 6%. The case was considered to be a bellwether in the utilities industry, putting an end to the rapid pace of mergers and acquisitions that had been ongoing up to then.[5]

Xcel merger

However, after the failed Primergy merger, Xcel Energy was formed as a holding company to own three formerly independent companies: Northern States Power (Minnesota), Northern States Power (Wisconsin), and New Century Energies.

Articles and Resources


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Xcel Energy Power Generation" Xcel Website, August 2009.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Dorothy Davis, "Explosion shuts down Xcel's Black Dog power plant in Minnesota" PennEnergy, Sep. 22, 2010.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Wisconsin Energy Corp. Form 8-K", SEC Info, Filed On 5/3/95
  4. "Wisconsin Energy Corp., Northern States Power Co. Agree to Terminate Merger Proceedings", PRNewswire, May 16, 1997
  5. "Primergy too strong for regulators' taste", Google cache, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Lee Bergquist, May 18, 1997

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