MARQUETTE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WLUC) - The Shiras Power Plant provided the city of Marquette with coal power for more than five decades, and now it sits empty. High costs as well as a nationwide trend towards clean energy forced the closure, which has been planned since last August.
“We did a study to determine what the true cost of keeping everything on line B, and we found it would an expensive proposition, and we were further ahead running the Marquette Energy Center and dispatching that against the grid, so it was an economic decision," said BLP executive director Tom Carpenter.
With last year’s opening of the Marquette Energy Center, keeping the Shiras Power Plant open was no longer necessary.
"These are fast start, highly flexible, highly dispatchable units and that's where the real advantage of that comes in,” said Carpenter. “We can dispatch at an hourly basis and we can decide at any given day what we are going to pay for the power, either from the system or we generate it ourselves."
The closure of the plant will also see big savings for the BLP and customers, with projections showing a savings of $100-million over the next 20 years.
"Anytime you save money for the BLP, it's truly saving money for the customers,” said Carpenter. “We're customer owned, we're owned by the city, and we’re not a shareholder company like an independent utility would be."
At Tuesday’s meeting Marquette Board of Light and Power June meeting, future plans for the plant were discussed. This is going to be an ongoing process, and as of now there are no definitive plans. With the loose timeline, a decision needs to be made before the winter on whether or not to purchase a boiler for the plant.
"So to truly lay up the plant in a condition where you can just turn around and restart it again someday, you'd want to heat the building and we'd need a heating boiler,” said Carpenter. “It's $900,000 just to buy that and put it in."
The discussion on the future of the plant will continue throughout the summer at the BLP's July and August meetings, and they are always looking for public input. Those meetings will be at the BLP office July 10 and 24, and August 4 and 28. You can also visit the BLP office anytime during regular business hours.