Grand Haven Board of Light & Power (GHBLP) directors have approved contracts to develop detailed design and engineering plans for an operations and technology center at the utility’s Harbor Island location. The redeveloped site would house GHBLP’s advanced distribution hub, operations staff, grid interconnection, downtown substation, and a 12.5MW combined heat and power generation facility.
“This is a critical step in our transition away from being a single-source, coal-burning community into a technology-focused community with advanced distribution and a diverse, sustainable portfolio of power resources,” said Jack Smant, chairperson of the board.
If final designs are approved next Spring, GHBLP will be able to issue municipal bonds as planned to fund the project, which will include the costs for the J.B. Sims coal plant demolition and environmental remediation work in addition to the construction of new facilities on the Sims site. The BLP paused the design and engineering of the new facilities on the site a year ago to reevaluate and “right-size” the project after initial estimates for a larger facility proved cost-prohibitive. The approval of the further design and engineering represents the next phase of a comprehensive five-year planning process in alignment with GHBLP’s strategic plan (approved in Spring of 2016), community input, and the direction of Grand Haven City Council throughout.
“Year after year, our customers have indicated reliability and affordability as top priorities, but they also strongly value environmental and fiscal responsibility,” said Gerald Witherell, vice-chairperson of the board. “We now buy 100% of our power from the regional power supply marketplace, and we are on target for 25% of that energy to be renewable by 2022 with aggressive plans to add even more. We are proud of that portfolio, but many of our local residents and businesses told us they wanted a portion of our supply to be based locally, as long as it could be done cost-effectively. This project represents the best long-term local solution that will help protect us from wholesale energy price spikes during peak summer load conditions, lower our downtown snowmelt operating costs in the winter, and empower us to leverage better power purchase contracts for energy going forward.”
Although the J.B. Sims coal plant is undergoing demolition, the site is still the location of the GHBLP’s downtown substation and one of three interconnections to the regional transmission network, which cannot be affordably relocated. Working with nationally-recognized experts in municipal and utility planning, the BLP determined a combined heat and power generation facility adjacent to this existing infrastructure would best serve the community’s needs for stable rates and reliability. GHBLP plans to use the “peaking” generation during periods when it may be more economical to produce power locally than to buy from network resources. The units also couple well with the interim snowmelt water heaters, creating a more affordable, long-term solution for keeping downtown streets open for business during the winter.
The Board approved a $350,000 contract with ProgressiveAE, who also developed the site master plan, for total facility conceptual design. The Board also approved contracts with Power Engineers Collaborative for $75,000 and NTH Consultants for $26,500 to complete the generating facility conceptual design and air permit process respectively.
Though these design and engineering efforts will be underway through the winter, the GHBLP remains committed to engaging in a continued open and transparent public feedback and input process. The utility is currently planning outreach programming to gather community feedback on the proposed direction and explore new technologies for the distribution system and increased the use of distributed energy resources and storage within the community as these technologies become more economically viable.
The BLP provides electricity for approximately 14,800 customers in Grand Haven and the surrounding area.