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Consumers Energy CEO David W. Joos, left, meets the press after his presentation to business leaders at Bay Valley on Friday.

Consumers Supercritical Pulverized Clean Coal Plant Said Beneficial

New Units Start on Replacing Nation's Second Oldest Generating Fleet

April 5, 2009       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Why a new power plant here?

  • Long term customer demand,

  • Need to replace half century old generating units with cleaner burning technology reducing carbon footprint and

  • Potentially tougher federal pollution rules.

    Those bullet points are behind the decision by Consumers Energy Co. to propose an 800 megawatt (MW) addition to the Karn-Weadock facility.

    Public comment sessions about the project are slated April 14-15 at Bay Valley by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The company is explaining its position and seeking comments at

    Theme of the project, outlined Friday at Bay Valley by Chief Executive Officer (CEO) David W. Joos, is "Growing Forward."

    Mr. Joos said the state's 21st Century Energy Plan and the company's Balanced Energy Initiative have concluded that Michigan electric customers would pay about $4 billion more for power over the next decade if the company does not act to address a pending electric supply shortfall.

    "While our older generating units have been well maintained, and we've not yet made firm plans to shutter any of them, new regulations and aging equipment could render these plants uneconomic over the coming decade," said Mr. Joos. "And it takes close to a decade to replace them . . . so we have to get started now."

    The new plant will be much more efficient and much cleaner than the 50-year-old plants it is designed to replace, "so our overall environmental impact, including carbon dioxide emissions and mercury, will be lower than today."

    The new process is termed "advanced supercritical pulverized clean coal technology" and the proposed Consumers project would be among 25 in the nation using this process.

    The CEO said the company is expecting federal legislation limiting carbon dioxide emission in the next year or two.

    Mr. Joos added: "We're even designing the facility to include state-of-the-art carbon capture and storage options that will lead the industry." He also noted that the geology of Michigan "is likely among the most favorable in the nation for application of deep geologic disposal, or sequestration."

    The company is working with Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, and the Dow Chemical Co., Midland, and partner Alstrom, on development of large-scale carbon capture.

    Governmental operators of electrical generating facilities will be partners in the plant using 300 MW of the 800MW total output, said Mr. Joos.

    A total of 69 governmental, civic, business and union organizational units in Bay County are backing the $2.4 billion project, noted Mr. Joos before a supportive crowd of about 200. Every single government in the county is on board, he said, noting later that the project would more than double the $10 million in property taxes paid annually for the complex.

    "Growing Forward" exemplifies the company's $6 billion "Invest in Michigan" strategy, said Mr. Joos.

    This strategy calls for:

  • Large scale projects to enhance the reliability of gas and electric distribution systems;

  • New technology to improve customer service and help customers better manage use of electricity;

  • New sources of renewable "green" power generation; and

  • State-of-the-art, environmentally clean large-scale electric generation "than Michigan badly needs," according to the CEO.

    The $6 billion commitment "represents one of the largest job-creation and economic investment programs that Michigan will see over the next five years," said Mr. Joos.

    The company is heavily into production of "green" energy, said Mr. Joos, noting its history as a user of hydroelectricity back to 1906. Consumers has been buying power from waste-to-energy projects across Michigan since the 1980s and power from windmills since 2001. From the new John Deere Wind Farm near Ubly, Dow Corning will purchase more than 14,000 MW of energy as the company's larges private green generation customer. The firm has secured rights to more than 40,000 acres in the Thumb and West Michigan for new wind farms.

    The company is supporting the Michigan Solar Advantage program aimed at developing a world-leading solar energy corridor in the Great Lakes Bay region.

    Demand for electricity has grown about 2 percent per year over the past decade, but the company sees that declining to about 0.3 per cent per year.

    But, said Mr. Joos, "demand growth is there, even if it's not huge right now." He cited the exponential rise in use of "electronic toys" like computers, cell phones, plasma TVs that use four times that of conventional sets, plus air conditioning that now is nearly a necessity.

    Consumers Karn-Weadock plant has served the Saginaw Valley with electricity since its dedication in 1940.
    (MyBayCity Photo by Dave Rogers)

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    Dave Rogers

    Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
    respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
    (Contact Dave Via Email at

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