News & Information

Grand Haven Board of Light & Power Approves Design and Engineering Contracts for Harbor Island Site Redevelopment


Thursday, November 5, 2020, Grand Haven, MI – 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.



Community News

Wednesday, October 15, 2020, Grand Haven, MI – 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.


Board of Light & Power Officials Tour Assembly Solar Project in Shiawassee County

Wednesday, September 23, 2020 – Grand Haven Board of Light & Power and City officials (David Walters, General Manager; Renee Molyneux, Administrative Services Manager; Erik Booth, Power Supply Manager; and Gerald Witherell, Board Vice-Chair; and Mayor Robert Monetza), along with Michigan Public Power Agency (MPPA) officials and other MPPA members toured Ranger Power’s 239 MW Assembly Solar Project on September 2nd, located on 1,900 acres in Shiawassee County, Michigan. The Board of Light & Power has 20-year Purchase Power Commitments through the Michigan Public Power Agency for approximately 10 MWs of energy from this solar facility.

David Walters, BLP General Manager stated, “The Board of Light & Power is proud to participate in this project, which when fully operational will provide approximately 5% of our system’s annual energy requirements. One of the BLP’s Strategic Plan goals is to diversify its power supply portfolio, and this project, along with other solar, wind, and landfill gas commitments the BLP has already made will allow for almost 25% of our system’s energy needs to come from renewable resources by 2022.”

The first phase of the $250 million Assembly Solar Project, which is projected to be the largest in Michigan, is expected to be completed and online by the end of 2020. The two remaining phases are scheduled for completion by the end of 2021.

Electricity from the first two phases of the Ranger Power project will be sold to Michigan Public Power Agency to be used by its municipally-owned electric utilities, including Grand Haven Board of Light & Power, Holland and Zeeland Board of Public Works, Traverse City Light & Power, and the Lansing Board of Water and Light. Following the completion of the project, the Assembly Solar Project will generate enough power to supply energy for more than 35,000 homes in Michigan.

Ranger Power tour guides explained to the group they have 20-year lease agreements with landowners in the townships of Hazelton and Venice in Shiawassee County. At the end of these contracts, landowners and Ranger Power may either renegotiate for more time on the land or all equipment will be removed and land will be restored to its pre-project state.

The BLP provides electricity for approximately 14,500 customers in Grand Haven and the surrounding area.