Rainbow Energy Center to purchase Coal Creek Station

K. William Boyer and Allison Ritter

Underwood, N.D. – After 40 years serving Minnesota cooperative members, North Dakota’s largest and most efficient power plant will continue operations under local ownership.

Rainbow Energy Center, LLC (Rainbow Energy Center) has reached an agreement to purchase Coal Creek Station from Great River Energy and operate the 1,151-megawatt (MW) power plant using current plant employees they hire.

Nexus Line, LLC (Nexus Line) has reached an agreement to purchase the high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission system that extends between central North Dakota and Minnesota from Great River Energy.

Rainbow Energy Center and Nexus Line are affiliates of Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation of Bismarck, North Dakota.

About Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation: Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation’s group of companies have over a quarter century international experience in energy trading and asset management across the United States, Canada and Mexico. Our diversified commodities portfolio includes wholesale electricity, natural gas and propane, as well as retail electricity and natural gas. We are strategically positioned with over 10 offices across North America.

According to the company, Rainbow Energy Center plans to focus on baseload energy from Coal Creek Station with carbon capture and incremental generation from renewables to fully utilize the capacity of the HVDC transmission system. Combined, these diverse energy sources are essential to ensuring the electric grid remains reliable and has sufficient energy for consumers that can be drawn upon when needed.

“Carbon capture and storage is vital to continued operation of Coal Creek Station and will be an important step toward Gov. Doug Burgum’s goal for the state to reach carbon neutrality by 2030,” said Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation President Stacy L. Tschider. “Rainbow Energy Marketing Corporation has 28 years of experience in power marketing throughout North America. We are committed to providing competitive and reliable power to consumers. As a privately held company, we are uniquely positioned to actively pursue customers that purchase power on the open market, which includes power purchased by Great River Energy.”  

“Purchasing energy and capacity from Rainbow was not in our original plan, but it will serve as a reliable steppingstone in our power supply transition,” said Great River Energy President and Chief Executive Officer David Saggau. “We are excited for what the future holds for the communities surrounding Coal Creek Station, which have been very supportive of the plant. We are proud of the good work of our North Dakota employees and know they will deliver for Rainbow just as well.”

The purchase of Coal Creek Station by Rainbow Energy Center preserves jobs in the community, including jobs at the Falkirk mine, and supports the state and local economy.

“Great River Energy has been a fantastic partner throughout this process.  They have shown a strong commitment to their people and the region and this tradition will continue within our company,” says Tschider. “The employees at Coal Creek Station are known for their innovation in the industry. We are looking forward to not only building upon this history but taking it to a whole new level.”

Senator Kevin Cramer said the announcement was excellent news for the employees of Coal Creek Station and Falkirk Mine, and was a prime example what can be done with

 "Coal Creek is the perfect acquisition for a creative company like Rainbow which knows how to market energy, understands the American energy marketplace, and appreciates the value of the reliable, low-cost energy we have here in our state, "Cramer said. "Congratulations to their leaders and to those at GRE, and to our local leaders like Governor Burgum and Lieutenant Governor Sanford, who was instrumental during these negotiations. I stand ready to support this purchase however possible.”

Senator John Hoeven, said Rainbow Energies commitment to to purchase Coal Creek and deploy a carbon capture project presents yet another opportunity for North Dakota to lead the way with the latest, greatest technology, allowing us to continue utilizing our abundant coal resources while reducing emissions. 

"“Coal Creek Station is one of the most efficient and critical baseload power plants in our region, and the employees at both the plant and the Falkirk Mine do a tremendous job providing affordable, reliable energy. Now, under Rainbow Energy, they will also be on the forefront in advancing CCUS efforts for our state and nation," Hoeven said. 

Gov. Doug Burgum and Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, praised the sale of the Coal Creek, saying that it lifted the dark cloud of uncertainty that was surrounding the station. In May of last year, Great River Energy had announced plans to retire Coal Creek Station during the second half of 2022.  Since that time North Dakota officials had been actively trying to find buyers to keep the plant going. 

“This is a great day for North Dakota, a big win for U.S. energy security and reliability, and a huge sigh of relief for the residents of McLean County, Underwood and surrounding communities in coal country who depend on the jobs and economic activity generated by Coal Creek and the nearby Falkirk Mine,” Burgum said. “It’s also great news for the regional power grid and consumers who depend on the reliable, affordable electricity that coal provides.”

Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford said the sale was the positive outcome of months of negotiations to find a solution that benefits consumers, coal country workers and the entire state of North Dakota.

"We’ve worked hard to create a tax and regulatory environment that makes our state an attractive place for responsible energy development, and we’re excited for that to continue thanks to this investment by Rainbow Energy Center and GRE’s willingness to work toward a collaborative solution.," Sandford said. 

The purchase of Coal Creek Station and the HVDC system is expected to close later this year, after required approvals are obtained. The sales and purchase agreements will become the latest step in Great River Energy’s power supply transition. The cooperative plans to add 900 MW of wind energy before the end of 2023 and modify the 99-MW coal and natural gas-based Spiritwood Station power plant to be fueled primarily by natural gas.