UP power plants online, operating

Coal-fueled Presque Isle retired

MARQUETTE — WEC Energy Group’s subsidiary, Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corp.,began commercial operation of the A.J. Mihm Generating Station and the F.D. Kuester Generating Station in the Upper Peninsula on Sunday.

The natural gas-powered generating stations replace the energy produced at the company’s coal-fueled Presque Isle Power Plant, which was retired the same day.

“The new generating stations are good for our customers, good for business and good for electric reliability throughout the U.P.,” Kevin Fletcher, WEC Energy Group’s president and CEO, said in a press release. “Closure of the Presque Isle Power Plant also helps achieve our goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40 percent, well ahead of our 2030 target.”

Combined, the two plants have a generating capacity of 183 megawatts. Construction began in April 2018.

Plans for this transition date back to 2015 when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder issued a call to action to solve the Upper Peninsula’s energy crisis.

WEC Energy Group funded the $275 million investment. Half of the funding will be recovered through a 20-year agreement with Cleveland-Cliffs Inc., which operates the Tilden Mine in Marquette County. The other half will be recovered in retail electric rates.

Citing an elimination of the need for additional transmission capacity and future upgrades at the Presque Isle plant if it had continued to operate, UMERC officials said the new generating stations are expected to save customers nearly $600 million over the next 30 years.

Presque Isle Power Plant’s closure is part of WEC Energy Group’s larger plan to reshape its generation fleet to balance reliability and customer cost with environmental stewardship, officials said. Plans for the future use of the retired coal plant site will be developed as the company continues to evaluate potential uses for the property, according to the press release.

With offices in Menominee and Iron Mountain, UMERC serves nearly 36,500 electric and 5,300 natural gas customers in the U.P.