NIPCO History

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Image features 1930's advertisement of a young boy from rural America leaning on a barn fence.
Early Rural Electrification Administration (REA) ad, promoting the benefits of membership in a rural electric cooperative.
Image is a photo taken of the first pole setting with NIPCO representatives and onlookers.
NIPCO's first pole was set in August of 1953 near Hinton, Iowa.

NIPCO History: Securing an energy supply for western Iowa

Powering Up

Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO) was incorporated in 1948 but the first meeting of NIPCO's original incorporators wasn't held until January 17, 1949. This meeting was strictly for purposes of organizing the cooperative structure. These thirteen original incorporators were rural electric distribution cooperatives (RECs) who had worked to raise money from area farmers and businesses to build a system of power delivery in rural western Iowa. These RECs united with one common goal: to improve life and grow the economy in rural western Iowa by constructing and maintaining a power delivery system and secure all future power supply needs for its member distribution cooperatives and their member-owners. 

By connecting farms and communities through a complex grid of electric power lines, member-owners were suddenly thrust into the mindset that they were all working together to ensure growth and prosperity in this region for the benefit of future generations.

Pictured are NIPCO's first three employees: Allen Paull, Nancy Wiggerman, and Lloyd Caulkins.

The first 3 employees of NIPCO included Office Manager Allen Paull, Office Assistant Nancy Wiggerman, and General Manager Lloyd Caulkins. Through an arrangement by the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce, a lease for the use of one full hangar and a double office in the airport administration building (with Rural Electrification Administration - REA - light and heat provided) was secured. NIPCO's first headquarters were to be established at the Le Mars Airport facilities. An agreement was signed with the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Le Mars on January 19, 1953, for $145/month.

NIPCO's first transmission pole was set in August of 1953 on the V.E. Benson farm near Hinton, Iowa. Thus, construction began on the original 621 miles of transmission line and 46 original substations. The first section of NIPCO's transmission system from Hinton to Ida Grove was completed on February 10, 1954. 

The system was energized on April 5, 1956. An, April, 1956, headline in the IRECA News proclaimed "Missouri River Juice Starting This Month" and described NIPCO's announcement that "firm electric service generated on the Missouri River would be supplied to member co-operatives sometime during the first week of April."

The NIPCO Board - 1955: Seated: A.S Wendel (Woodbury); Fred VanderHam (Sioux); Alfred Schmillen (Cherokee); Bill Sullivan (NIPCO Attorney); Alfred Lage (South Crawford); Ray McCarty (Lyon); Bertsel Brown (Plymouth); Everett Dodge (O'Brien); Standing: Henry Consoer (Osceola); Roy Schuttloffel (Nishnabotna Valley); C.E. Lorenzen (Ida); Verne Burkholder (Harrison)

A newly energized substation in Hinton brings a "Pathway of Power" from the Missouri River Dam system to the NIPCO service territory. (circa 1953)

Power Supply

When incorporated in 1948, NIPCO received all of its power requirements from hydropower supplied by the Missouri River Dam system. In the 1960's, load growth studies indicated that an additional generation resource was needed to meet the needs of electric consumers being served in NIPCO's service territory.

Cooperative leaders from 8 states worked together to form Basin Electric Power Cooperative, headquartered in Bismarck, North Dakota. Basin Electric built generation plants comprised primarily of coal, oil, and natural gas.

Today, Missouri River hydropower purchased from Western Area Power Administration (WAPA) supplies 25 percent of the energy needs for western Iowa's electric cooperatives, with the remaining portion provided through Basin Electric resources.


NIPCO Manager E.J. Dickinson turns the dirt at the future site of the NIPCO headquarters on July 30, 1963. Miss Iowa and Director H.J. Shoemaker (Sioux) look on.

Powering Ahead

In 1963, ground was broken on the site that was to become the "new" NIPCO headquarters, located three miles south of Le Mars, Iowa. NIPCO Operations, and the required number of staff to support it, expanded dramatically. Technological implications touched every facet of the rural electric cooperative industry. Demand for the safe, reliable, affordable supply of power increased and the communities in western Iowa developed. 

Almost 70 years and 30,000 member-owners later, NIPCO continues to deliver improved quality of life to western Iowa through six distribution cooperatives and one municipal electric cooperative, providing services that connect its members well beyond the original vision of those formative years.

NIPCO and its member cooperatives work hard to provide a reliable energy supply, communications, and related services to those we serve in a safe, reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible manner and support energy efficiency, distributed generation and the development of renewable energy and look forward to contributing to America's energy future for generations to come.