Xcel Energy to Close Minnesota Coal Plant

Xcel Energy formally notified state regulators and the Midcontinent Independent System Operator that it plans to close the two remaining coal-fired units at its Black Dog Generating Station in Burnsville, Minn., by April 2015.

The Black Dog plant has 232 MW of coal-fired generation in its Units 3 and 4, which have been operating since 1955 and 1960, respectively. A repowering project completed in 2002 replaced the original Units 1 and 2 with a 162-MW natural gas combined cycle plant; steam from Unit 5’s steam generator powers the original Unit 2 steam turbine.

The facility has a somewhat checkered past that includes a 2010 coal bunker explosion that caused extensive damage to Unit 3. Xcel had previously announced plans to replace Units 3 and 4 with a second combined cycle plant, but it now says it will convert the plant site into a recreational trail connecting two adjacent parks, as the new generation is no longer needed.

As with numerous other coal plants being retired this decade, the cause is apparently regulatory. In explaining the decision, Xcel blamed the costs to bring Units 3 and 4 into compliance with federal emissions regulations that take effect in 2015.

“The Black Dog plant has been a cost-effective, reliable energy resource for our customers since the 1950s,” said Dave Sparby, president and CEO of Xcel subsidiary Northern States Power Co.–Minnesota. “But there is a cost associated with the modifications needed to operate these coal units under new federal air emission rules. Retiring the units will benefit our customers by not only avoiding those costs, but also reducing emissions.”

Xcel has two other coal-fired plants in Minnesota but said it plans to continue operating them for the foreseeable future

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor.

Photo courtesy: McGhiever/Wikipedia