- Rail carrier BNSF has assured Wisconsin electric co-op Dairyland Power that sufficient coal will be delivered to keep its Genoa and Alma plants online this winter.
- The news comes shortly after Dairyland released a memo saying supply is at "perilous levels" and that normal BNSF deliveries would need to be tripled to alleviate a shortage threatening service to 250,000 mostly rural customers when demand rises in the coming winter.
- Xcel Energy also recently lodged a formal complaint about BNSF with the federal Surface Transportation Board that said coal delivery delays are now threatening grid reliability in the five state upper Midwest region supplied by Xcel’s 2,500-megawatt Sherco plant, prompting calls from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa political leaders for Board action.
The Xcel Sherco plant supplies almost a quarter of the electricity Xcel delivers to some 1.9 million customers in the five state region and relies entirely on coal delivered by BNSF. Dairyland’s Alma plant is served directly by BNSF and its Genoa plant is supplied by Mississippi River barges with coal that must be delivered to ports by BNSF before river shipping shuts down in the fall.
BNSF said the delays were caused first by harsh winter weather and then a freight volume surge but with this year’s 200 added locomotives, 400 new employees, incentives to keep retirement-eligible personnel working, and $3.2 billion in new tracks and infrastructure, it expects to speed up operations.
Part of BNSF’s freight volume surge is due to federal orders to streamline grain shipments from the Great Plains. Dairyland says it will monitor stepped up deliveries at Genoa and Alma and Xcel says it continues to work with the railroad.
Utilities in Arkansas, Kansas and North Dakota have reported similar problems.