In alignment with the community-owned utility’s strategic plan for a diverse, sustainable energy supply, Grand Haven Board of Light & Power (GHBLP) directors have approved a conceptual master plan to redevelop the utility’s Harbor Island site. GHBLP staff can now proceed to more fully evaluate the financial and engineering viability of developing an Operations and Technology Center, including 12.5MW of combined heat and power generation on a portion of the former Sims site.
Although the JB Sims coal power plant is undergoing demolition, the Harbor Island site is still the location of critical distribution infrastructure including the utility’s primary connection to the grid, which currently supplies 100% of power to the community. As the existing transmission and distribution infrastructure on the site cannot be affordably relocated, the board is exploring integrating the existing infrastructure with an operations center as the most cost-effective approach. The operations center will house the technology and staff necessary to support the utility’s advanced distribution infrastructure and combined heat and power generation.
“A diverse portfolio of power supply sources including renewables, grid purchases, and locally-owned generation will ensure affordable, reliable power for the community,” said Gerald Witherell, vice-chairperson of the board. “The operations center and generation units we’re considering will help us leverage the best prices from the grid and protect our ratepayers from excessive wholesale market price during regional peak demand periods.”
The proposed natural gas reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) peaking units would account for about 15% of GHBLP’s state-mandated resource adequacy capacity requirements. The utility has already invested heavily in new renewable resources and is on track to meet 25% of its energy needs by 2022 with aggressive plans for continued growth. Ultimately, GHBLP plans to use the RICE generators during peak demand periods when it is more economical to produce power locally than to buy from the grid. Counsel from Power Engineers Collaborative and ProgressiveAE have also determined that a combined heat and power generation solution on Harbor Island near the downtown area would be the most economical source of heat for the city’s snowmelt system.
“The community has asked that our utility place a high value on fiscal and environmental responsibility,” said Jack Smant, chairperson of the board. “Our strategic transition from an organization focused on operating a single coal generating unit toward advanced distribution technologies and renewable energy resources aligns with our community values.”
During Thursday evening’s meeting, the Board also reviewed a report from Golder Associates, a leading environmental consulting firm, on the ecological status of the site and recommendations for remediation. GHBLP is exploring the best ways to restore as much of the site as possible to wetlands and reduce the utility’s total footprint after the demolition of Sims is complete.