J.R. Whiting Plant – Plan in place for development firm to acquire

Monroe News file photo Consumers Energy J.R. Whiting Generating Plant in Luna Pier

The BDC worked with both Consumers Energy and a community engagement team to the point in time where the J.R. Whiting coal powered generation facility in Luna Pier was decommissioned in the fall of 2016.  The story below (reprinted from the Monroe News)  depicts one of the last phases of the plant’s journey to its new beginning.

LUNA PIER — Consumers Energy is expected to submit a filing with its regulator next month regarding the shuttered J.R. Whiting plant in Luna Pier.

The energy company will file a plan with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to have Forsite Development Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., acquire both the Whiting site and the B.C. Cobb site in Muskegon.

“The filing’s timing allows Consumers Energy and Forsite to have a signed acquisition agreement prior to submitting the request to the MPSC for its review,” the company said in a statement. “Consumers Energy’s board of directors has already conditionally approved the acquisition.”

The Michigan Public Service Commission has up to 180 days to review and act on the request to divest Consumers Energy of both former electric generating sites.

“It is anticipated the sites will be demolished within two years of the transaction being finalized pending a positive outcome with the MPSC review,” the statement said.

Forsite is a real estate development firm focused exclusively on acquiring corporate surplus industrial real estate.

“Our focus is to transition these properties back to productive use and maximize their economic development potential, attracting new jobs and investments to the communities where they are located,” the company’s Web site said.

The company currently has one former power plant for sale, a former 32-watt energy facility located in Kenansville, N.C. The majority of their available sites are located in North Carolina and two in South Carolina.

Prior to this week’s announcement, no formal plans had been announced for the plant, which closed its doors April 15.

The Whiting plant was among the oldest coal plants in operation. The 328-megawatt, $80 million plant initially began operating in 1952.

Consumers Energy’s initial timetable indicated abatement and demolition on the plant would begin in 2017, however, in January company officials said those plans changed.

“We have entered into negotiations with an acquisition company to divest the site,” Dennis Marvin, community engagement manager told The Monroe News in January. “We thought that would be completed in 2016, but the negotiation process went longer than expected.”

In 2015, Consumers Energy hired AMEC Foster Wheeler, a global consulting firm, to determine the best way to use the property. A soybean processing facility along with a wildlife preserve were considered the best ways to reuse the site, according to the consulting firm.

Yet, the future of the 875-acre site remains unknown.

When the plant closed, it employed about 70 at the three-boiler plant. At its peak, the facility had more than 160 workers. Employees were given the option to continue with Consumers Energy at other facilities.

Consumers officials said the plant closed for two reasons: aging structures and updated federal mandates to reduce emissions.