LUDINGTON – Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison will invest $800 million over six years to upgrade and lengthen the life of the Ludington Pumped Storage Facility.
The innovative electric “battery” built in 1973 on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan south of Ludington is a key component for the public utilities as they move into alternative sources of energy, such as wind farms.
Replacement of the plant’s six massive turbines will increase the plant capacity by 16 percent – from the current 1,872 megawatts to 2,172 megawatts, after the replacements are installed by 2019. The construction project is estimated to create 100 jobs during the six years, utility officials said in a public announcement at the Ludington-Scottville Chamber of Commerce offices Monday afternoon.
“The upgrades will improve its efficiency, increase its role in support of clean-energy sources for Michigan, create jobs and ensure that the plant will continue to contribute to the economy of the Ludington area and Michigan for many more decades,” Detroit Edison President Steve Kurmas said in a prepared statement.
Detroit Edison owns 49 percent of the plant and the Jackson-based Consumers Energy – the public electric utility for most of western Michigan – owns the other 51 percent. The Pumped Storage Plant was built to provide a low-cost, reliable source of electricity for Michigan customers during high electric demand times.
“The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant has proven its value over several decades of service, providing millions of Michigan electric customers with outstanding performance and dependable reliability,” Consumers President and CEO John Russell said in a prepared statement. “This major investment is a sign of our commitment to Michigan’s economic development and points to the state’s future growth.”
When combined with the planned $232 million, 56-turbine Lake Winds Energy Park near the Pumped Storage Plant, Consumers Energy would be investing more than $1 billion in Mason County. The Lake Winds Energy Park still needs a critical Mason County zoning approval as strong opposition to the wind farm has formed in recent weeks.
The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is a 1,000-acre site four miles south of the city of Ludington. The facility includes a 842-acre reservoir perched atop the bluff that is able to hold 27 billion gallons of Lake Michigan water.
When electric demand is low and the electric rates are cheaper, such as during the overnight hours, lake water is pumped 372 feet up to the reservoir. When electric demand is high and rates increase during the day, the water is released back down to Lake Michigan to produce electricity that has been “stored” in the reservoir like a giant battery.
When the plant opened, it was named one of the Top 10 civil engineering projects of the 20th Century in Michigan by the state section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
The Ludington Pumped Storage Plant is able to produce enough electrical power to supply a community of 1.4 million people, Consumers Energy officials say. The upgrade will increase the number of people served by the plant to 1.65 million, officials said.
The Ludington plant plays an increasingly important role as a storage facility for renewable energy produced during off-peak periods, thereby making renewable energy more affordable and reliable, Consumers officials said.
Not only has the utility looked at Mason County for a land-based wind farm, but Scandia Offshore Wind has explored a huge Lake Michigan wind farm for the waters off Mason and Oceana counties due to the proximity of the Pumped Storage Plant. Both county boards of commissioners have rejected the Scandia plans.
In addition to the electricity, the plant generates $10 million a year in property taxes for area governments and schools.
The Ludington maintenance and upgrade project is scheduled to begin in 2013. It will need 100 workers each year in the construction trades, including electricians, welders, crane operators, pipefitters, millwrights and carpenters, company officials said.
The plant upgrade includes installation of six new turbines from the Toshiba International Corp. of Japan, a global leader in electrical generation technologies. Toshiba won the turbine contract through a competitive bid, Consumers officials said.
Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison are both publicly traded companies and regulated utilities in the state of Michigan. Consumers Energy is the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy, providing power to 1.8 million customers in 68 Lower Michigan counties, while Detroit Edison is the subsidiary of DTE Energy, providing electricity to 2.1 million customers in Southeast Michigan.
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