1917 DLPU Staff
1917 Public Utilities Staff inside the first municipal power plant
View of the steam turbines inside the plant, 1917
Demolition of the 200-foot concrete smokestack, 1987
Electric Department Warehouse
The new Electric Department Warehouse located at 1743 North Tower Rd, Detroit Lakes, MN

The Story of Detroit Lakes Electric Utility

The first City owned power plant was purchased on December 17, 1902 at a price of $16,000. It consisted of 50 kilowatt Triumph generators, one Ideal engine and two 80 horsepower boilers, a switchboard and other equipment. The first Utility Commission was formed on March 26, 1903 with W.L. Taylor as the first commission's president. On May 4, 1903 the Commission established the village's first electric light rates: commercial lights were 75 cents per month up until midnight and $1.25 per month for all night usage; residential lights: bedroom 25 cents a month; bathroom/closet, 25 cents a month; other lights, 50 cents up until midnight, $1.25 for all night usage. Hotels with 40 lights or more were to be charged the same as the residential customers. Meter rates: usage of 200 kilowatts or less, 12.5 cents per kW; next 100 kW, 11 cents per kW, next 100 kW , 10 cents per kW.

The plant continued to supply Detroit's power needs until 1910, but by this time the village had grown into a city and the plant's capacity had fallen short of meeting the needs of the growing population.

In October 1909, the city entered into a contract with Detroit Building & Manufacturing Company and Detroit Concrete Building Company for the construction of a 38 X 98- foot concrete building that would house the new power plant. After its completion, the new power plant was equipped with two 130 kilowatt generators, two 9.5 kilowatt exciters, two Twin City Korliss engines( one 150 and one 200 horsepower), two 100 horsepower tubular boilers, a heater, pumps and other equipment. The plant was thought capable of meeting the city's needs for many years, but expansions also followed in 1923 and 1934 when the first 1,000 kilowatt steam turbine was installed.

In November of 1954, the City Council accepted a bid from General electric Company for equipment and construction of a new city electric power substation. In September of 1955, a $100,768 contract was awarded to Tri-State Electric of Breckenridge for the installation of 144 new street lights on Washington Avenue and side streets in the City's commercial areas. A parade to celebrate the advent of the new fluorescent street lighting system was held on November 25.

In November of 1966, the City approved the purchase of a gas jet turbine as a source of emergency power. The new gas turbine emergency power plant, located east of the City's main power and light plant, was unveiled to officials attending the 36th Annual Meeting of Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association in Detroit Lakes on June 24m,1968.  According to a report in the June 27, 1968 issue of the Becker County Record, the plant was "powered by a 20,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney gas turbine which will put out about 10,500 kilowatts ." The plant was to be used for emergencies only.

On May 6, 1985, Detroit Lakes Public Utilities got their first look at a preliminary draft for a district heating study conducted by Scantec, Inc. St. Paul based engineering firm.  The main reason for the study was that the city's 50-year-old steam district heating system had been losing about $100,000 a year for the past 8 years. In the study there were suggestions for the future if the City's steam heat system, conversion to natural gas or/ and hot water. By march, 1986 Public Utilities Commission had finalized the plans to help its residential and commercial steam heat customers in converting to a dual fuel heating system, where the city would pick u 50% of the conversion costs, up to $5,000.

On March 11, 1987, the PUC authorized the shutdown of the city's power plant and demolition had begun by July 27 of the 200-foot smokestack. The  main plant however could not be demolished until the hazardous asbestos material contained in the structure had been safely removed. A portion of the space formerly occupied by the plant would be used for additional downtown parking.

In March 2001, an engineering study commissioned by the PUC showed that while the city's electric power system was in "good to excellent" shape, its capacity was insufficient to meet the growing needs to the population. In February, 2003 the City sold $ 5.38 million in bonds for upgrading one of the existing electric substations , the relocation and upgrade of another and construction of one new additional substation. The new substation, located northwest of the Highway 10/59 intersection in Detroit Lakes, will primarily serve customers in the western portion of the City's service territory. This location was strategically selected to take care of the anticipated future growth in the area.