BWL natural gas-fueled cogen plant begins commercial operation

Source:Lansing Board of Water & Light

The first new utility power plant built in Michigan in 25 years – the Lansing Board of Water & Light (BWL) REO Town cogeneration plant, has begun full commercial operation. The natural gas-fired cogeneration plant is the BWL’s first new power station in 40 years.

“BWL’s REO Town cogeneration plant is among the most clean and efficient in Michigan and the U.S.” said J. Peter Lark, BWL General Manager. “This state-of-the-art cogeneration plant scores a major victory for the environment. And, we’re proud that the project has been called a “game changer” for economic development in the Lansing region.”

Located at 1203 S. Washington Ave. in Lansing, the $182 million project – which is on time and on budget, includes a new cogeneration power plant, new headquarters office building, and restored Grand Trunk Western Railroad depot, to be used as a meeting place for the BWL Board of Commissioners.

The cogeneration plant generates up to 300,000 pounds of steam for 225 steam customers in downtown Lansing – replacing the Moores Park Steam Plant and provides 100 percent of BWL’s steam generation, and 100 megawatts of clean and highly reliable electricity – providing 20 percent of BWL’s electric generation.

The plant is BWL’s first natural gas-fired electric generating plant, and it’s the BWL’s first cogeneration plant. The combination makes the REO Town plant among the most cleanest and efficient that will be operating in Michigan and the U.S.

This state-of-the-art cogeneration plant scores a major victory for the environment in mid-Michigan. It is a cleaner, greener and energy-efficient facility, allowing the BWL to:

  • Slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent compared to the coal-fired steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.
  • Eliminate the need to burn 351,000 tons of coal compared to the steam and electric units that the new plant will replace.
  • Lower mercury and SO2 (sulfur dioxide) emissions by over 99 percent, and NOx (oxides of nitrogen) by over 85 percent compared to the coal-fired boilers that are now retired.

The facility is expected to receive LEED certification. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is recognized worldwide as a commitment to sustainable, energy efficient and healthier building and neighborhoods.

A combined-cycle cogeneration facility uses natural gas to generate steam and electricity in a two-step process. First, a gas turbine burns natural gas to directly turn an electric generator. It then captures the hot exhaust to produce steam, which can be delivered to steam heating customers or used to turn a second electric generator. Since two products are produced from one fuel source, this is the most efficient thermal process by which to generate energy.

Since the decision was made to build the power plant, natural gas prices have fallen dramatically further reducing costs to fuel the plant.

The facility was built by Lansing’s The Christman Company, Granger Construction Company, Clark Construction Company and Kramer Management Group, Inc. among other Lansing construction firms, and by 1,000 building trades men and women.

The headquarters building and restored depot will be completed as planned in just a few more weeks – and around Labor Day approximately 180 BWL employees will work in the complex.

The 5.3 acre REO Town site was the best location among others considered for the new power plant and headquarters because it was closest to BWL’s steam and electric distribution systems. The property contained an asphalt parking lot and the train depot at the time of purchase. The historical importance of the train depot to the REO Town neighborhood led the BWL to restore the depot, which is on the U.S. and Michigan Register of Historic Sites, to its original state as a part of the project.

The BWL also believed developing the site would enhance economic development in REO Town, the city and the region. That combined with the City of Lansing’s $2.84 million Streetscape improvement project along Washington Ave., which has renewed this transportation corridor, is why the REO Town project has been called "transformational" for the area.

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