Michigan regulators on October 25 gave their help to Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp.’s (UMERC) plan for 2 new pure gas-fired vegetation within the state’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.). The vegetation accredited by the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) could be inbuilt Baraga and Negaunee townships.

The vegetation are designed to supply a mixed 183 MW of era. Construction may start by year-end, and the present schedule requires each vegetation to start working in 2019. Electricity from the 2 amenities would partly substitute era from We Energies’ 359-MW Presque Isle Power Plant on Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan, the place the final 5 coal-fired items are scheduled to shut in 2020.

The first of the 5 remaining items (Units 5 by means of 9) at Presque Isle start working in 1974; the final of these 5 got here on-line in 1979. Units 1 and a pair of at Presque Isle have been retired in 2007, and Units three and four have been closed in 2009.

The new gas-fired vegetation have a mixed price ticket of $277 million. They will use reciprocating inner combustion engine (RICE) know-how, which makes use of much less water in comparison with a standard gas-fired energy plant. The Negaunee Township would be the bigger of the 2, producing greater than 120 MW.

Upper Michigan Energy Resources is a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, as is We Energies, which is Wisconsin’s largest utility. UMERC was shaped to separate the Michigan and Wisconsin utilities of We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service Corp. of Green Bay, which can be a WEC subsidiary. WEC was shaped when Wisconsin Energy purchased Integrys Energy Group in 2015.

The plan accredited Wednesday was filed with Michigan regulators in January of this yr. At the time, J. Patrick Keyes, who grew to become president of UMERC when it was shaped on January 1, 2017, stated the submitting was proof of his group’s “dedication to a long-term viable resolution for electrical reliability within the [Upper Peninsula].” Keyes beforehand was Wisconsin Energy’s chief monetary officer.

Several teams have opposed the plan to construct gas-fired items to exchange Presque Isle, saying renewable vitality sources reminiscent of wind and photo voltaic ought to have been thought of. Regulators stated issues about grid stability have been a part of the choice to maneuver ahead with the gas-fired vegetation; in addition they stated improved grid stability would allow future improvement of wind and solar energy within the area.

The Tilden Mine, an energy-intensive iron ore mine operated by Cliffs Natural Resources Corp., is the biggest person of electrical energy within the U.P. The Negaunee Township plant is sited simply north of the mine. UMERC has requested the PSC to approve a 20-year particular provide contract for Tilden. The utility additionally has stated a pure gasoline pipeline serving the area will must be upgraded; UMERC has an settlement with pipeline firm Northern Natural Gas (NNG) to construct a brand new compressor station and make different enhancements.

The mine and UMERC reached a service settlement in August 2016 as a part of the plan for the brand new gas-fired vegetation. Cliffs and We Energies have been at odds over the mine’s electrical energy prices over the previous few years, with Tilden’s operators changing We Energies as its service utility below Michigan’s partly deregulated energy system, resulting in authorized and regulatory battles. We Energies, with out the mine as a buyer, stated it could shut Presque Isle early. The Midcontinent Interconnection System Operator (MISO) has required the plant to stay in service attributable to reliability issues within the area; WEC has collected System Support Resource (SSR) funds from Wisconsin and Michigan prospects to maintain the plant open. The Michigan Agency for Energy final week stated these funds have totaled about $60 millon.

The funds have been the topic of authorized motion towards the utility, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) final week lower by virtually $23 million prices related to Presque Isle that may be handed on to U.P. ratepayers, that means prospects may very well be eligible for refunds.

Darrell Proctor is a POWER affiliate editor.

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