Grand Haven City Council cancels plans to construct peaking plant
Published June 23, 2023
Written by Madison
Photography by Simply American
Grand Haven City Council canceled plans to construct a peaking power plant on Harbor Island after the J.B. Sims Generating Station was decommissioned.
Decision To Close The J.B. Sims Power Plant
The Grand Haven Board of Light and Power (BLP) consists of five elected members serving under and alongside the Grand Haven city government. Up until 2020, the BLP provided direction for the operation of the J.B. Sims Generating Station, located on Grand Haven’s Harbor Island since the early 1960s.
In February 2020, the J.B. Sims plant was decommissioned after the BLP determined the aging technology was resulting in operating costs that exceeded profitability.
Before the J.B. Sims plant was decommissioned, the BLP performed a detailed analysis of the operating costs. They concluded that, due to the plant’s aging technology and it not operating at full capacity, it would be more economical for their customers to purchase power from the grid. The BLP brought the analysis to the City of Grand Haven and it was agreed that the J.B. Sims plant could be decommissioned, on two conditions:
1. The BLP needed to have a method of generating power.
2. The BLP needed to power the City of Grand Haven’s downtown snowmelt system.
To meet the city’s conditions—and ensure adequate power generation was available during times when customer demand exceeded the grid’s capacity—the BLP proposed a new plan.
The plan’s concept was to increase the percentage of power produced using green technologies, while constructing a much smaller peaking plant—a plant that runs only when the power grid can’t keep up with the energy demands—to maintain power reliability. The plan outlined a 12.5 megawatt gas-powered peaking plant, as well as space for battery power storage and solar generation.
The city approved the decommissioning of the J.B. Sims plant and the plan proceeded forward.
Proposed gas-powered peaking plant and Operations and Technical Center on Harbor Island. Rendering by Progressive AE.
Public Pressure Cancels Project
In August 2021, the environmental clean-up of Harbor Island’s decommissioned J.B. Sims plant was proceeding as scheduled in preparation for the new peaking plant. Then PFAS (perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances) contamination was discovered, in addition to the anticipated Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR). The PFAS contamination likely occurred when Harbor Island served as the city dump, indicating the City of Grand Haven may be partially liable for the clean-up. This discovery led environmental activists and residents to put pressure on the Grand Haven City Council. The council canceled the plant and brought BLP’s plan to a screeching halt.
Today the BLP continues to manage electric utility infrastructure and to purchase power from the grid for use by the residents of the City of Grand Haven.
The magnitude of environmental contamination on Harbor Island and plan for the clean-up effort is still being determined by the City of Grand Haven, the BLP, and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).