Substation to lessen effect of Whiting shutdown

The BDC has been working with both Consumers Energy and the Community Engagement Team as the JR Whiting coal powered generation facility in Luna Pier is being readied for decommissioning. This process has been ongoing over the past several months and has included a series of meetings to stay briefed by the energy company as to the progress of the shutdown. Additionally the company has provided several studies that have led us to believe that firs the site has potential for redevelopment and secondly that the most suitable industry sectors are food production and logistics and supply chain operations.

Much credit should go to Consumers Powers as it looks to shut down these large power generation sites. They have been more than generous on making sure Monroe County and Luna Pier have been appraised of the process and helpful in providing resources to assist the community as they look to replace the revenue and jobs that will be lost as the plant goes dark early next year.

As I have been on this journey I have learned much about the operation behind the curtain of a power generation facility. The story below (reprinted from the Monroe Evening News)  depicts one more phase of the project that must be completed before the plant ceases operations. And to think, I used to just flip the switch and the light came on. I have a much better appreciation today for what it takes to get the “juice” to my Keurig so I could enjoy my morning cup of java juice.  

 Tim C Lake_Sig_1

Courtesy photo 
Construction crews work to install the new Morocco Substation in Deerfield.

Construction crews work to install the new Morocco Substation in Deerfield.

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.”