Utility hopes for new use of power plant

Consumers Energy is committed to helping find a new use for the site of a coal-fired power plant in Muskegon that's scheduled to close in two years, officials with the utility said.
AP Wire
Apr 24, 2014

The unit of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. offered updates Tuesday on plans to decommission the B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon. As part of that, the utility said it will work to maintain federal dredging of the Muskegon Lake port by finding a new use that would boost shipping, such as agricultural products or industrial use.

The plant's shipments of coal represent about two-thirds of the Muskegon port's commercial activity, the utility said. Annually, about 640,000 tons of coal are shipped to the plant, and without that the port could be at risk of not being dredged by the government.

"If they stop dredging, then the state of Michigan loses its only commercially viable port on the Lake Michigan side of the state of Michigan," said Dennis Marvin, communications director for the utility.

One idea that would create substantial shipping opportunities involves turning the area into an agricultural food processing center, the utility said. The property also could be used for industrial work, be changed for commercial use or even be a site for housing.

"Certainly there's some great opportunity for this area," Marvin said.

Consumers Energy earlier announced plans to close and demolish the B.C. Cobb plant along Muskegon Lake as well as coal-fired units at its J.R. Whiting facility near Luna Pier in Monroe County and the Karn/Weadock complex near Bay City on the Saginaw Bay.

Consumers Energy plans to shut the units by April 2016.

The ages of the plants, along with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements for additional pollution control equipment, prompted the decision to close the facilities, said Keith Welcher, Consumers Energy decommissioning project manager.

"They're old," Welcher said. "They're going to take a ton of maintenance to keep them running."

To prepare for the shutdown, the company is conducting end-use and environmental impact studies, he said. The B.C. Cobb plant has environmental issues such as lead paint and asbestos that will be examined further as plans for the site move forward.

Comments

Wolverine49457

What a blow to Muskegon, I remember an elementary school trip to see the brand new stack which at the time was the tallest structer in Michigan. beyond the economic loss in jobs and taxes the lake and channel will not be dredged by the Corps as well...Pray for Muskegon.

rj18rad

I haven't seen any new power (coal, NG, nuclear) plants being built. With so many coal power plants being eliminated, I'm just curious how this is all going to work out. This past winter stressed the US power grid and many of the plants were at maximum load. If one power plant had gone down, the entire east coast would have been blacked out.

happycamper

Grid switching, if you lose power at a source there is backup from other power sources, Consumers Energy at Port Sheldon unit 1&2 where down along with unit3 upgrades, no power was being produced at all, so basically you where buying from an outside source, They say solar power is coming to a town near, its in the plan for renewable energy, the new power plant in Bay City is put on hold forever, can not get the necessary permit's, they say no more coal burning plants in Michigan, so Consumers is planning gas conversion for what i hear, Port Sheldon plant was on scheduled for closing, but changed their plans, upgrade instead and it cost millions for that to happen

rj18rad

I understand grid switching, but what if the grids are already maxxed out in what they're feeding. You're still going to have rolling black outs if not enough power plants for the load.

nextdoor

Consumers is buying an existing plant to cover the two they are closing.

GH55

From the Energy Information Adminsitration web site: "The cold winter weather was a primary driver of the estimated 4.3% year-over-year increase in total U.S. retail sales of electricity during the first quarter of 2014. Year-over-year growth was especially strong in the residential sector, which grew by an estimated 7.3%. For the upcoming summer months, EIA projects residential sales during the second and third quarters will average 0.6% more than last summer. This growth is driven by a 5.8% increase in summer cooling degree days, offset slightly by efficiency improvements in air conditioning, lighting, and other electricity uses."
The US used a large amount of electricity last winter but that is not the big driver of capacity. Summer time is where the big demand always comes in. Air conditioning is the biggest driver.
Peak in July 2012, 12,370MKWhr, Peak Feb 2013, 10,702M KWHr, Peak July 11,868M KWHr, and Peak Jan 2014, 11,325M KWHr (all numbers per day consumption). So, indeed, this last winter was higher than winter has been, but not anything above the true peak that comes in the summer time. In general, the highest use of electricity per capita is in the south eastern part of the US. 2010 figures: Per capita use in Louisiana: 18,852KWHr (#5 is US), and Michigan: 10,561KWHr (#38 in US).
In point of fact, due to other activities, such as improved air conditioning efficiencies, lighting and other uses, our consumption has been going down.
What has gone up, and will continue to go up, is the cost of this utility. All of the fuels we burn will continue to be more expensive as time goes by.
Another reason to continue to investigate and implement alternative energy supplies, wind, solar, bio, etc.

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