The transition away from large coal plants is reducing power-sector emissions while also changing the state’s physical landscape. Hulking, centralized power plants are leaving vacant footprints for redevelopment, including in Grand Haven with the recent demolition of the J.B. Sims Generating Station. Meanwhile, more distributed wind and solar projects are also raising key land-use questions and, at times, vocal opposition. Here’s a list of five large-scale generation projects planned around West Michigan.
— Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz
1. Heartland Farms Wind Project
Size: 200 megawatts (MW)
Location: Gratiot County
Status: The Michigan Public Service Commission in March approved a build-transfer agreement between Consumers Energy and developer Heartland Farms Wind Project LLC for the project, which is expected to be in operation by the end of 2022. Consumers plans to own and operate the 72-turbine project by then in order to qualify for federal Production Tax Credits.
2. Indeck Niles Energy Center
Size: 1,100 MW
Source: Combined cycle natural gas
Status: Construction on this $1 billion power plant started in the summer of 2019 and is scheduled to be operational within the next year, said David Hicks, vice president of business development for Indeck Energy Services, which co-owns the facility with South Korean companies Korean Southern Power Co. (KOSPO) and Daelim Corp. The combined cycle natural gas-powered facility, which was first proposed more than 20 years ago but faced yearslong delays, will produce electricity for the PJM power grid that reaches into Southwest Michigan and displace power from retiring coal plants elsewhere in the region. “Particularly in the last 10 years, you’ve seen a very strong movement to replace aging coal-fired and nuclear generation with state-of-the-art natural gas generation and renewable power,” Hicks told MiBiz.
3. Calhoun Solar Center
Size: 200 MW
Location: Convis Township, Calhoun County
Status: Chicago-based renewable energy developer Invenergy LLC recently announced a 25-year agreement to sell 140 MW of power from the project to Consumers Energy. The power purchase agreement is subject to Michigan Public Service Commission approval, but the project aligns with Consumers’ plan to add about 1,100 MW of solar to its portfolio by 2024. The 1,200-acre project is expected to be completed in 2022.
4. Freshwater Solar
Size: 200 MW
Location: Day Township, Montcalm County
Status: New York-based developer Ranger Power’s proposed $200 million solar project is one of two large-scale renewable energy projects under consideration in Montcalm County and would be the company’s third large-scale solar project in Michigan. As of late last year, the developer was still securing leases with private landowners for the 2,000-acre project, the Greenville Daily News reported.
5. Montcalm Wind
Size: 375 MW
Location: Montcalm County
Status: Virginia-based developer Apex Clean Energy says wind resources in Montcalm County, as well as large swaths of rural land and access to transmission, would make an ideal site for a large-scale wind energy project. Plans call for spreading 75 wind turbines across active farmland. While the project has sparked backlash from area residents with concerns about changes to the landscape, supporters say it would help local residents diversify their income with lease agreements and provide revenue to local schools and governments. As of last month, developers were reportedly still gathering wind resource data from meteorological towers but hope to have the project operational by 2024. Apex Clean Energy is nearing the completion of a 385 MW wind project in nearby Isabella County.