ONTONAGON — The White Pine Electric Power Plant is set to close in about seven weeks.
When operations cease at the White Pine Electric Power Plant what effect will that have on power availability to those living in the Keweenaw? The company that operates White Pine says it will be significant. Chief Operating Officer of PM Power Group Zachary Halkola said, “I think it needs to be very clear, that people understand that we are sacrificing potential load
here, rather than running a plant, to remain compliant.”
The new plan, as submitted by American Transmission Company and supported by the Michigan Agency for Energy, would call for radial configuration of the transmission system during planned and unplanned events. That plan would prevent a cascading loss of load due to voltage issues if there is an incident. White Pine officials say their plant is normally dispatched during those types of events to keep the system on line as expected.
But without the plant White Pine says the Keweenaw could be left in the dark in the event of a major power outage. “The proposed plan could call for an increase in what they are titling “consequential load loss” of certain substations,” said Halkola. “Those substations are the stations that power from L’Anse to Ontonagon to Copper Harbor and everything in
The MAE disagrees. They say White Pine was only called upon during planned outages and when they did the 60-year-old power plant couldn’t deliver. MAE Executive Director Valerie Brader said, “They actually were out all summer, which is when planned outages occur. So right the time that we would be hoping for their support of the grid, given they were getting millions of dollars for it, they were completely unable to show up that whole summer.”
In September, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to end System Support Resource payments for White Pine, resulting in roughly $7 million in savings for ratepayers. White Pine says that’s a savings of about $30 per year…so why not keep the SSR payments until the new units are ready.
Brader said, “In a community with the kind of struggles-if I can get you better reliability and save you from paying that kind of hourly rate, I don’t think the question is why wouldn’t you do that, I think the question is why would you?” Two new power generating units are expected to come online in the Upper Peninsula in 2020.