Lansing, Mich., wrestles with issues related to retirement of coal capacity

The Lansing Board of Water and Light (BWL) in Michigan is working on issues related to the planned retirement of capacity at the coal-fired Eckert power plant.

Attached to the agenda for the board’s July 28 meeting is a series of summaries and outlines of various issues as presented in recent board meetings prior to July 28. The materials said that Eckert has been the site of a power plant since the early 1920s. Until recently, it was capable of producing 420 MW, but is currently capable of producing 290 MW. Because of its strategic location, Eckert is very important to maintaining and meeting electric reliability standards. As the plant ages, operations and maintenance costs have been increasing while generation reliability has been decreasing.

The meetiing materials said that compliance with stricter air and water regulations will add to the cost of maintaining Eckert:

  • Pending greenhouse gas regulations may limit the amount of CO2 emitted by BWL facilities;
  • The federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) will result in Eckert Units 1 and 3 being retired in March 2016;
  • Additional regulations are pending or will be implemented within the next 10 years.

Eckert is the site of major transmission and distribution facilities. The Eckert electric distribution plant feeds 68 circuits and nearly one third of the BWL’s peak load including critical parts of the BWL’s service territory. Without electric generation at Eckert, electric service to downtown Lansing is one contingency from failure, the meeting materials said.

The BWL can acquire the electric energy and capacity from a number of sources, including construction of additional generation and acquiring more renewable energy. The BWL is beginning an integrated resource plan (IRP) process that will involve the community on the best way to acquire additional electric energy and capacity

Said an item from the May 26 board meeting packet about MATS compliance: “The BWL’s compliance date is April 2016, unless delayed or vacated by the Supreme Court. Compliance costs for units 1 and 3 are considerable, and these units were planned to be replaced by REO Town, so [Eckert] units 1 and 3 will need to be retired if the rule is affirmed by the Court. The remaining BWL units can comply without major investment.”

REO Town is a new facility and is BWL’s first natural gas-fired power plant and first cogeneration plant. It generates up to 300,000 pounds of steam per hour and 100 MW of electricity.

Located near downtown Lansing, Eckert is BWL’s oldest operating power plant. The plant’s generation units were installed over several years, beginning in the mid-1950s. The Generation Hub database shows the two units to be retired in 2016 to have these summer capacities – Unit 1 (35 MW) and Unit 3 (34 MW).

Said one item from the minutes of a July 14 meeting about future capacity: “George Stojic, Executive Director of Strategic Planning and Development, updated the Board on the status of the BWL’s solar programs. Mr. Stojic indicated that a Power Purchase Agreement with groSolar has been completed and that the power generated would fulfill the BWL’s PA 295 compliance requirement. Additionally, Mr. Stojic stated that the price would be $59.00 per megawatt hour, which is a very good price for this part of the country, and that it would be the only utility scale solar project in Michigan. According to Mr. Stojic, a site has not yet been selected, however, once it is selected, it will determine the project size, between 15 and 30 megawatts. Mr. Stojic also stated that the BWL was previously working with a developer on a smaller, 300 kilowatt, community solar project. This would allow the BWL customers to buy into the project and receive a credit on their bills. Mr. Stojic also mentioned the BWL’s distributed solar program provides incentives to businesses and residential customers to place solar energy on their facilities and homes with the option of participating in the BWL’s net metering program. He stated that collectively, these projects constitute Michigan’s most extensive solar program, which is particularly appropriate based on the BWL’s summer demand and transmission configuration.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.