Black Dog Generating Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Black Dog Generating Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Xcel Energy near Burnsville, Minnesota. The power station was shut down in 2015.


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Plant Data

  • Owner: Northern States Power Company
  • Parent Company: Xcel Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity:
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 81 MW (1952), 114 MW (1955), 180 MW (1960)
  • Location: 1400 East Black Dog Rd., Burnsville, MN 55337
  • GPS Coordinates: 44.818722, -93.239389
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:
  • Unit Retirements:

Closing of coal plant and new gas plant

In 2010 Xcel had 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.[1] In August 2011 Xcel Energy said it was to complete the conversion of one of its Minnesota power plants from coal to natural gas. It was reported that Xcel is seeking permission from state officials to switch the remaining Black Dog Generating Station units in Burnsville to natural gas.[2]

Black Dog received its last coal shipment in April 2015, and will close by the end of the year. A 215-megawatt gas-fire combustion-turbine peaking unit is expected to replace the retired coal plant in 2019.[3]

An older 81 MW unit at Black Dog built in 1952 was retired in 2002.[4]

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,125,518 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions: 3,699 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions: 7,108 tons
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions: 99 lb.


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.[1]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Black Dog Generating Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[5] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[6]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Black Dog Generating Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 11 $78,000,000
Heart attacks 17 $1,800,000
Asthma attacks 180 $9,000
Hospital admissions 8 $180,000
Chronic bronchitis 7 $2,900,000
Asthma ER visits 11 $4,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

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