The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 14, 2014

Consumers Energy to shelve Thetford Plant

By The Building Tradesman

Consumers Energy announced Jan. 30 that it has placed an indefinite hold on construction of a proposed 700-megawatt natural gas-fired generating plant in Thetford Twp. near Flint.

Instead, the utility will purchase an existing combined cycle natural gas plant in Jackson, rated at 540 megawatts and built in 2002.

“Consumers Energy is holding off on the Thetford project not because there’s any question we need new, more environmentally sustainable energy,” Dennis Dobbs, vice president of generation engineering and services for Consumers Energy, wrote in an op-ed to The Flint Journal following the announcement. “Seven of our aging coal-fired plants will close in a couple of years, and we need new sources of power to serve a growing state.

“Instead, we are pursuing another, more affordable way to serve the public’s needs. We intend to buy a natural gas-burning plant in Jackson in early 2016.” Construction of the Thetford Plant was announced in December 2012. Construction was expected to begin in early 2015.

A Consumers Energy statement points out that “deferring construction of the Thetford natural gas combined cycle power plant does not diminish our commitment to creating jobs in Michigan. We have pledged to increase spending by $1 billion with Michigan-based suppliers over five years as part of the Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) initiative.

“We continue to create up to 1,000 building trades jobs annually as work continues on environmental upgrades and ongoing maintenance at two of our larger coal-fired power plants. In addition, skilled trades will be needed to help dismantle the seven smaller coal-fired units we plan to retire. That dismantling process should start in 2017 and extend over several years.”

Billions of dollars in power plant construction has come and gone in Michigan over the past few years. In December , Wolverine Power announced it was finally canceling a 600 megawatt coal-burner, planned for Rogers City. In late 2011, Consumers Energy announced that it was canceling a planned $2 billion, 830-megawatt coal-fired plant at its Karn-Weadock plant near Bay City. About the same time Consumers announced that it was closing seven aging coal-fired plants from around Michigan. And the price tag on the Thetford plant was $700 million.

Some of that power production is being replaced by the installation of wind farms. Construction of the Cross Winds Energy Park in Tuscola County started last November . Consumers Energy also opened the 100-megawatt Lake Winds Energy Park in Mason County in 2012.