Operational Excellence
April 8, 2024

Northern States Power-Wisconsin celebrates 100th anniversary

Xcel Energy’s operating company in Wisconsin and Michigan looks back on a century of service

For generations, Xcel Energy’s operating company, Northern States Power-Wisconsin (NSPW), has reliably served customers in Wisconsin and Michigan with the energy to power their lives. And on Sunday, April 7, 2024, NSPW celebrated its 100th anniversary, with a nod to its past and an eye toward the future.

“Our history is long, but fast-changing – and marked by disruptions and a myriad of technological milestones,” said Karl Hoesly, president, Xcel Energy–Wisconsin and Michigan. “In the 16 years I’ve been with the company a lot has changed – from technological and economic advances to increasing competition, regulations and climate goals to energy consumption habits.”

Construction of Wissota Hydro plant in 1916.
NSPW has its roots in several early industries – logging, gas and light companies and the electric railway. But the journey began in 1923, when Northern States Power Company of Minnesota purchased the Wisconsin-Minnesota Light and Power Company, which had recently completed the Wissota Hydroelectric Project. Under Wisconsin law, utilities that operate in the state must be incorporated in the state, so the newly acquired company, with headquarters that moved from La Crosse to Eau Claire, was renamed Northern States Power-Wisconsin on April 7, 1924.

NSPW sled truck in St. Croix Falls, 1927
The company quickly sprang to life and within a decade transformed the great hydroelectric potential of the region by constructing a system of interconnected, semi-automatic hydroelectric plants and storage reservoirs. By 1929, NSPW was operating a system of five hydro plants on one river. About 80% of the U.S. population had electric service by the 1940s, and consumption was twice that of the 1920s. Today, we operate 19 hydroelectric generating plants on eight rivers in Wisconsin, as part of our diverse renewable energy portfolio, which also includes Upper Midwest wind farms, solar projects and biomass facilities. 

NSPW linemen
The company also expanded by offering natural gas service, and through acquisitions and mergers, NSPW grew to include customers in northern Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula, further strengthening its reach.  

Since 2000, the company has been known as Xcel Energy, and serves 265,000 electric and 120,000 natural gas customers in parts of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Xcel Energy comprises four operating companies and serves 3.7 million electric and 2.1 million natural gas customers across eight Midwestern and Western states.

An NSPW half-ton service truck. 
“To reach these historical milestones, it takes the dedication and innovation of thousands of current and retired employees,” Hoesly said. “Our anniversary is more than a celebration; it reflects our commitment to innovation, progress and making a positive impact. As we embark on the next 100 years, I expect that we’ll keep building on our many achievements and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”