By Dennis Pelham
Daily Telegram Staff Writer
DEERFIELD — Construction of a major electric substation on South County Line Highway is nearly complete. It is now connected to a Consumers Energy line serving Lenawee and Monroe Counties.
The Morocco Substation was built by ITC Transco to fill a power gap that would result from the scheduled shutdown in April of Consumers Energy’s coal-fired J.R. Whiting generating plant in Erie.
The substation taps into a large inter-state transmission line and feeds electricity into a smaller Consumers Energy distribution line that passes nearby, south of Deerfield.
Hundreds of trucks hauled tons of material to the plant site over the summer, damaging pavement on South County Line Highway. The Lenawee County Road Commission received payment last month of nearly $100,000 it estimated for repairs, said managing director Scott Merillat. Some repairs have already been completed, he said. Asphalt wedging and seal coating to restore the road surface are scheduled for next year.
A large transformer was shipped by railroad to Blissfield then trucked to the substation site on a special tractor-trailer rig in September. After the installation was completed, ITC began energizing the substation on Dec. 8 and completed it Friday.
“Energizing basically means connecting the substation to the electrical grid, which is made up of varying voltage levels,” said ITC spokeswoman Kelly Fulford in an email.
The side of the substation connected to the larger 345,000 volt power line was energized first, allowing electricity to flow in from other stations and generating sources, she said. Morocco Substation’s transformer reduces the voltage to the 130,000 volt level of the Consumers Energy line, she said, “so that power can flow to distribution stations and ultimately to area homes and businesses.”
The substation is fully operational and connected to the 138,000 volt line that is also still receiving power from the Whiting plant.
The Whiting plant is to shut down by April 15 due to age and Environmental Protection Agency rules, said Dan Bishop, Consumers Energy director of media relations.
“This is one of the oldest coal plants in Consumers Energy’s statewide power generating system,” Bishop said in an email. It went into service in 1952, generating electricity that serves about 230,000 people.The plant’s three generating units average 60 years of age.
Consumers Energy is also retiring four other older coal units near Bay City and Muskegon by April 15, Bishop said. A total of 25 coal generating units throughout Michigan are to be shut down by 2020.
Bishop said Consumers Energy customers can be assured of “reliable and affordable electric service” after the three coal plants are closed next year.
“To partially replace this power, Consumers Energy has purchased a large natural gas plant now operating in our hometown of Jackson,” Bishop said.
“All of these changes underscore the urgent need for the state Legislature to pass Michigan-first energy policy early in 2016 to ensure that we have reliable power supplies,” he said. “It takes a utility from three to five years to build a new power plant.”