UP natural gas-fueled power plants may soon be operating, officials say

The F.D. Kuester Power Generation Plant in Negaunee, pictured, and the A.J. Mihm Generation Plant in Baraga County will soon be providing energy for commercial use, according to Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp. officials. The two plants will be capable of providing 183 megawatts of power. (Mining Journal photo)

MARQUETTE — Two new sources of Upper Peninsula energy generation are expected to go into commercial operation in a matter of months.

Construction activities at the Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp.’s F.D. Kuester Generating Station in Negaunee Township and the A.J. Mihm Generating Station in Baraga County are “essentially complete,” UMERC spokesperson Amy Jahns said in a recent email.

No specific date has been set for commercial operation of the two natural gas-fueled power plants, Jahns said.

“We are in the testing phase of generation and plan to start commercial operation once testing is complete,” Jahns said. “The construction process has gone very well and we have not encountered any significant roadblocks.”

The two facilities are expected to provide 183 megawatts of power, a large percentage of which is expected to be used by the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.’s Tilden Mine.

The generation stations will replace the aging coal-fired Presque Isle Power Plant in Marquette once they begin operation.

“We are still on track for the retirement of the We Energies Presque Isle Power Plant sometime in April or May,” Jahns said.

UMERC officials do not expect rates to increase at the time the new generation goes online, Jahns said, pointing out that the plants themselves should represent a cost-savings for customers.

WEC Energy Group, parent company to UMERC and We Energies, has funded the entire $275 million project, she said, which is expected to deliver nearly $600 million in customer savings over the next 30 years.

“Our plan has eliminated the need for costly transmission upgrades that would bring savings to not only UMERC customers, but everyone in the Upper Peninsula,” Jahns said. “Only half of the investment is placed into rates. The other half is covered by a 20-year agreement we have with Cleveland-Cliffs.”

Construction of the stations began in April 2018.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at lbowers@miningjournal.net.