Xcel Energy Inc. is a large electrical and natural gas corporation that has a long history of innovation in the field of energy production and distribution. The company is headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and serves customers in eight states, with a number of power plants in Colorado. With over 11,000 employees and annual revenues averaging $11 billion over the past few years, Xcel Energy is recognized as one of the most prominent utility companies in the nation.
Henry Byllesby created Consumers Power Company in 1909 and established electrical service in Stillwater, Minnesota, for about 500 customers. After a number of expansions the company was renamed Northern States Power. The Public Services Company of Colorado grew to supply over 80 percent of the gas and electricity for the state of Colorado by the year 1943. Southwestern Public Service Company began in 1904 in Roswell, New Mexico, and years later it was sold to an investor in Cleveland, Ohio, that already owned Roswell Gas Co. Eventually these three utility companies merged and formed what is today Xcel Energy Inc.
Today Xcel Energy owns and operates a huge number of power plants in the United States. This includes 14 coal-fired plants, 25 natural gas powered electric generator stations, two nuclear powered generating sites, and 27 hydroelectric facilities. It also serves nearly two million customers through a network of over 35,000 miles of gas pipelines. Xcel Energy Inc. also operates biomass facilities in Minnesota and Wisconsin that use organic waste material for fuel. Approximately 110 megawatts of energy are currently produced at these power plants.
Although it is now being removed from industrial sites the world over, asbestos was one of the most commonly used insulating compounds in older power stations. This was because fossil fuel plants were extremely hot from the fires needed to boil water and produce steam for the turbines. Asbestos is an excellent all-around insulator and effective as a fire retardant. Workers also wore protective gear that incorporated asbestos fibers. Asbestos was included in industrial paints that were used on floors, walls, and to coat wiring and electrical breaker panels. As buildings aged, asbestos fibers were released into the surrounding air at an accelerated rate, and were often inhaled by employees.
Asbestos inhalation can cause serious medical problems, even years after exposure. Mesothelioma and asbestosis are but two of the many diseases directly linked to asbestos fibers. Former employees at power plants owned by Xcel Energy were often working in close proximity to asbestos.