Twin Cities’ electric future


Xcel Energy's Black Dog power plant

It includes more gas, that is, burning natural gas as a fuel to make electricity.

Xcel Energy is angling to complete conversion of its Black Dog electrical generating plant in Burnsville.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR's budget year comes to a close on June 30. Help us close the gap by becoming a Sustainer today. When you make a recurring monthly gift, your gift will be matched by the MPR Member Fund for a whole year!

Two of Black Dog's coal burning units are now burning natural gas and the utility wants to convert the remaining two by 2016 at a cost of about $600 million.

Let us as eager consumers of kilowatts pause for a moment to consider this apparently mundane issue.

About half our electricity in Minnesota and across the country is from burning coal, and that is not a pretty picture given the environmental costs as measured in greenhouse gas and mercury emissions.

Over the next year and half the federal government will issue a batch of new federal air pollution regulations that may cause the closure of a bunch of old, inefficient coal -burning power plants.

Some utilities are shouting foul, and claiming the new rules will create apocalyptic conditions of brown-outs and other calamities that will cut into electrical addiction.

Others assert nothing of the sort will happen, in large measure because there are oodles of kilowatts that can be found elsewhere including natural gas, wind, solar, geothermal, hydro.

And then there's efficiency.

As in turning off the lights when no one is home or in the room. Or putting all our electric toys with their phantom power supplies on a power strip. And turning off the strip when the big screen TVs and other gizmos aren't in use.

The Black Dog conversion to natural gas needs state approval. The plant would be the third Xcel facility in Minnesota, along with the High Bridge plant in St. Paul and Riverside in Minneapolis, to join the gas burning trend if approval is granted.

A public hearing on the conversion is tonight at the Burnsville City Hall.