Emissions Cut To Permit Growth

December 22, 2003
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GRAND HAVEN — Upgrades to the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power’s main power plant are designed to significantly cut the municipal utility’s emissions and may help to accommodate a future capacity expansion.

Planned for the BLP’s Sims III power plant is a $3 million project to install six new burners that will reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by 68 percent, from the current 400 tons to 129 tons annually.

The upgrade will enable the BLP to meet new federal air quality regulations on NOx emissions that take effect May 31.

The new low-NOx burners and other equipment that the BLP plans to install next spring at the 65-megawatt Sims III generator essentially work by lowering the temperature at which coal burns, resulting in a reduction in the amount of NOx produced.

“You’re not burning coal at a higher temperature and (you’re) creating less NOx. And you’re always better off not creating it than trying to remove it,” said Jon Hofman, the BLP’s administrative services manager.

In reviewing options for reducing NOx emissions and meeting the new federal regulation, the BLP opted for a project that alleviated the creation of NOx, rather than the installation of a catalytic-reduction system that would remove it from the plant’s emissions.

That latter option carried smaller capital costs of $1.3 million, but included about $200,000 in annual operating and maintenance costs, Hofman said.

The BLP plans to operate the 20-year-old Sims III for several years and saw the installation of the new low-NOx equipment as the preferred alternative, he said.

“In the utility industry, it’s a very young, coal-fired plant,” Hofman said.

“We didn’t want to spend money year after year to remove NOx if we could spend money not to produce it.”

The Grand Haven BLP serves some 13,000 industrial, commercial and residential customers in the city of Grand Haven, city of Ferrysburg, and portions of Grand Haven, Spring Lake and Robinson townships.

The project is planned for next spring and will require the BLP to take the plant offline for four to six weeks.

The municipal utility plans to purchase electricity during the outage from the wholesale power market via the Michigan Public Power Agency, a consortium of municipal utilities across the state.

The BLP plans to pay for the upgrade with cash reserves built up over a number of years in anticipation of undertaking the plant upgrades to meet new clean-air requirements, Hofman said.

The new equipment planned for installation also will work well should the Grand Haven BLP decide to expand the plant’s generating capacity.

The BLP is examining the potential expansion of Sims III in the future, as well as the possibility of joining with several other municipal utilities around Michigan and Tondu Corp. on the proposed construction of a new plant near Manistee.

The utility has planned the Sims III upgrades to accommodate a possible 10-megawatt expansion, which the BLP would undertake if market needs dictated building additional generating capacity.

“Everything we are doing with the NOx project, we are making sure it complements the potential of a minor capacity upgrade,” Hofman said.    

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