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BWL receives green light to build natural gas-fired plant

The Lansing Board of Water & Light's proposed natural gas plant would be located at the utility's Delta Energy Park where the Erickson Power Station is located.
Courtesy of the Lansing Board of Water & Light
The Lansing Board of Water & Light's proposed natural gas plant would be located at the utility's Delta Energy Park where the Erickson Power Station is located.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light’s plan to build a new natural gas-fired power plant is moving forward.

The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) approved a permit to build and operate the new power plant in the Delta Energy Park.

According to EGLE’s Air Quality Division, the new construction will include:

  • Six natural gas-fired RICE (reciprocating internal combustion engines), each rated at 29,147 horsepower 
  • Two diesel-fired emergency engines, one to power a generator and one to power a fire pump 
  • One natural gas-fired dew point heater used to heat natural gas before entering the RICE 
  • Various natural gas-fired space heaters to be used for comfort heat 

In a statement, the utility said the new power station will address increasing electricity needs in the area.

“We acknowledge and appreciate the work that EGLE has done to thoroughly review and approve the permit for the Lansing Board of Water & Light to build a new RICE plant in Delta Township. These units will allow BWL to provide reliable energy our customers need now while also planning for future economic growth.”

BWL said the plant is designed to complement renewable energy sources like wind and solar by operating intermittently, not continuously.

No clear regulations bar the utility from running the engines year-round and Michigan air quality regulators estimate the new plant will contribute an additional 500,000 tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year.

EGLE provided residents an opportunity to voice their concerns by accepting public comments and holding a virtual public hearing in the beginning of May.

Randy Dykhuis, board president of the grassroots environmental justice group Capital Area Friends of the Environment (CAFE), was one of more than fifty people in attendance.

“Everyone who spoke during that time spoke against issuing the permits,” Dykhuis said.

He said opponents of the project worry about the health and environmental impact the power plant will have on the surrounding community because of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“Pollutants, as they come out of the smokestack, are going to be blowing directly into neighborhoods that are low-income, disadvantaged,” Dykhuis said. "There's at least one school in that path as well, and maybe more.”

Despite the projected carbon emissions tied to the new plant, BWL maintains the natural gas-fired plant aligns with their goal of carbon neutrality by 2040.

BWL expects the plant to be operational by the end of 2026.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light is a financial supporter of WKAR.

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