Ceremony marks completion of North Dakota power plant sale

May 2, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Bismarck company that sells wholesale electricity announced Monday that it has purchased North Dakota’s largest coal-fired power plant from a Minnesota company that had intended to close the facility if no buyer could be found.

Rainbow Energy Center LLC announced last year that it had reached an agreement to acquire the Coal Creek Station in west-central North Dakota from Great River Energy based in Maple Grove, Minnesota. The acquisition also includes associated transmission lines that run from central North Dakota to Minnesota by Nexus Line LLC, an affiliate of Rainbow Energy.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though the state provided a bond of up to $150 million to help finance the transmission line, officials said.

Great River Energy announced two years ago it would close the plant in the second half of 2022 and use wind farms in Minnesota to produce most of its energy. The plant employs 260 workers and has operated for more than 40 years.

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The potential closure of Coal Creek had also threatened North American Coal’s Falkirk Mine, which supplies lignite to the power plant and employs several hundred workers.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum attended the ceremony Monday in Underwood, near Coal Creek Station, to mark the completion of the sale. He cheered the news of the sale’s completion.

“This is truly a landmark day and a huge win for the 650 workers here at Coal Creek and Falkirk Mine, for the residents of McLean County, for the entire state of North Dakota and for U.S. energy security and electrical grid reliability,” Burgum said.

In January, Minnesota regulators approved the transfer to Rainbow Energy of the permit associated with the power line that carries electricity from Coal Creek Station to energy providers in Minnesota.

Great River said the decision to offload the plant was driven by economics. The company also planned to convert its Spiritwood Station plant near Jamestown from lignite coal to natural gas, meaning 95% of the power it produces would be free of the carbon dioxide that is blamed for global warming.

Great River supplies electricity to 28 rural Minnesota cooperatives, serving about 1.7 million people. Energy provided by the plant will be fully replaced by wind energy by the end of 2023, after a $1.2 billion investment, the company said.

Rainbow Energy buys surplus power from utilities and resells the electricity to other companies. It previously did not own electric wires, power stations or other utility infrastructure.

Rainbow is a subsidiary of Bismarck-based United Energy Corp, which also is involved in oil and gas production and exploration.