Energy Center construction ahead of schedule & under budget

MARQUETTE — Nine months into a $70 million project, construction of the new Marquette Energy Center is ahead of schedule.

Paul Kitti, the executive director of the Marquette Board of Light and Power, says about 125 local laborers are working 10 hours a day, 6 days a week to secure Marquette’s energy future.

“Couldn’t be prouder for the local workforce,” said Kitti. “Things are moving along real well with the subcontractors. It’s something that the community is going to be very proud of and we’re excited to be able to deliver this project to the community.”

BLP officials are aiming for the month of June for the energy center to be fully operational. But before that happens, the three 17-megawatt natural gas Wartsila Engines that are the center of the project will undergo a smoke test.

“First Smoke is when we get the engines fired up. It’s not like you’re going to see a lot of smoke coming out of the stacks or anything,” said Kitti. “It’s literally when we start getting fire into the engines.”

While construction crews continue to lay pipe and hook up wires, the Wartsila Engines will remain covered until everything is done.

“We want this site as clean as an OR at Duke LifePoint,” said Kitti. It has to be clean, it has to be dust free. The engine hall is going to be cleaned up and washed down so to speak.”

Kitti says the other project at the energy center, the solar garden, will take place this summer. BLP customers can buy a solar panel, which in turn, will give them a credit on their electric bill.

“It’s a way for them to experience some green energy,” said Kitti. “What will do is we’re going to move that electricity generated by the solar panels into our system right here at our substation.”

In order to construct the energy center, BLP officials raised electric rates by 30% last October.