The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, February 22, 2013

REO Town powerhouse seen as community asset

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

LANSING – If you seek a pleasant powerhouse on the city’s south side, look around you in the city’s historic REO Town district.

Located at Washington and East South Street is what, without a doubt, is the most handsome power plant in the state. The natural gas-fired plant is nestled next to railroad tracks, built on formerly empty land next to a renovated train depot.

“I think it’s definitely a nice looking building,” said Brian Foco, an Iron Workers Local 25 member working on the project for a company he co-owns, Foco Metal Works. “You don’t ever see anyone putting a building around a powerhouse, but they did here, and I think it fits in really good with the neighborhood.”

The project is moving quickly toward one of its final milestones, the initial gas turbine firing on April 10. The plant is slated to go into full operation on July 1.

Owned by the Lansing Board of Water and Light, the $182 million facility will be the BWL’s first natural gas-fired plant. It will also generate steam for the BWL’s 225 steam customers in and near downtown Lansing.

By using natural gas as fuel, the new plant will avoid burning 139,000 tons of coal each year at the nearby 1950s-era Moore’s Park Steam Plant, which will be shut down when the REO Town plant comes on line. Historically low natural gas prices make the plant more cost-effective, and cleaner-burning gas will help the BWL meet state emissions requirements.

In recent weeks, between 210-225 Hardhats have been working on the project. Christman Constructors is in charge of the main plant. Clark Construction handled the steam lines. Granger is in charge of the renovation of a former Grand Trunk depot that’s on site.

“Right now, all the equipment has been set, we’ve been doing piping hookups, cable pulls and a lot of painting,” said Dick Peffley, the BWL’s executive director of water operations and special projects. “The project is on schedule and on budget, and as a rule, we resolve any hiccups on the project by the end of the day. We’ve had an aggressive schedule and we’ve made all of our milestones so far, so we’re happy with the progress.”

Installed at the plant are two combustion turbines and one steam turbine. The plant will generate up to 300,000 pounds of steam and 100 megawatts of electricity. Steam that is not used can be efficiently recycled and diverted to turn a 14-megawatt turbine.

The plant, spread over a six-acre site, sits on a concrete base that’s five-to-eight feet thick. It is served by about 450,000 feet of wire and 20,000 feet of pipe. Steam pipes from the plant that will serve the downtown area are already in place.

Normally construction of a power plant isn’t viewed as a plus for a neighborhood, but it is here. REO Town (named for Ransom E. Olds) has an industrial heritage: it was the home of the first production facilities for REO and Oldsmobile brands, and cars and trucks were produced in the area from 1906 until 1975. The area also has three distinct neighborhoods in its boundaries.

According to BWL spokesman Steve Serkaian, the front of the plant will have new headquarters office space for 180 relocated BWL employees, and there has already been inquiries from other businesses considering relocating to the area.

“The exterior brick and the design and appearance of this plant is the result of the effort of a lot of people,” Peffley said. “The building is beautiful, and I think it’s going to be a huge asset to the community, and will help in the development of REO Town.”

THE PLEASING brick and glass exterior of the new Lansing Board of Water and Light powerhouse on Washington St. in the city’s REO Town will provide cover for a quiet electrical and steam generating facility.
‘HOOKING UP THE HYDRO’ on the boiler feed system at the REO Town plant are (l-r) Bob Simon and Bryan Leek of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 333, working for Northern Boiler. “I was wondering when this day would come,” Leek said, “after 32 years in the trade, I’m finally going to be in the paper!” On the front page, no less, and hopefully we got his good side.
FEEDING FIBER OPTIC cable for a temporary computer hookup inside the BWL REO Town Plant is William Grimes of IBEW Local 665, working for Swan Electric.