Old Xcel Energy Sign Re-Energized

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Irvine Park isn’t the only place in Chippewa Falls ablaze with light this holiday season. Xcel Energy recently refurbished and relit the iconic NSP sign that has been atop the hydroelectric plant in downtown Chippewa Falls since 1968. While the sign hasn’t been lit in about 20 years, it was recently repaired and outfitted with energy-efficient LED bulbs. The switch was flipped on the revamped sign on Dec. 7 at a ceremony featuring Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman and Mark Stoering, president of Xcel Energy for Wisconsin and Michigan. So what do those big letters stand for? NSP means Northern States Power, the predecessor company to Xcel. When the hydro plant was built in 1928 on the site of an old lumber mill, it was topped by a sign that gave the facility’s full name: “Chippewa Falls Hydro Plant – Northern States Power Company.” The sign upgrade will serve as a complement to ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Chippewa Falls, including the creation of a riverfront park where Duncan Creek meets the Chippewa River, not far from the dam. Eventually, Xcel plans to transfer ownership of the plant’s original turbine to the city, as well as to create kiosks with displays about the plant’s history along a riverside walking trail.