One megawatt is a lot of electricity, enough to power about 700 hair dryers. When the new DTE Blue Water Energy Center comes online in 2022, it will generate 1,150 times that much.
That’s really a lot.
To put 1,150 megawatts in perspective, it’s enough to continuously run nearly 70 million DVD players, almost 20 million 60-watt light bulbs or about 10 million desktop computers. The last time a major power plant was built in Michigan, there were barely 10 million personal computers in the entire country, and the World Wide Web hadn’t even been created, yet!
But that was over 30 years ago. This year’s groundbreaking of the $1 billion, 30-acre natural gas-fueled DTE Blue Water Energy Center near Port Huron, in Michigan’s Thumb Region, will launch construction of the state’s first major power plant since 1988.
The state-of-the-art facility will generate enough electricity to meet the power needs of 850,000 Michigan homes.
“There aren’t too many projects of this size that come along,” said Dan Casey, CEO of the Economic Development Alliance in St. Clair County, where DTE is building the plant.
“It’s going to be a highly impactful project for Michigan, and it’ll be around for many, many years.”
The new natural gas-fired plant comes as DTE also increases its investment in renewable energy through wind turbines and solar panels. The utility plans to double its renewable energy capacity across the state to 2,000 megawatts by 2022. At the same time, DTE is moving to retire its remaining coal-fired power plants by 2040, including an aging coal facility on the St. Clair River that dates to the early 1950s.
But what happens if the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?
The new DTE Blue Water Energy Center will bridge the gap by providing cleaner, more efficient electricity to the grid than the older coal plants. The natural gas-fueled facility will be 66-percent more efficient than a coal-fired plant and will significantly reduce emissions, with 77-percent less carbon emissions and 99-percent less nitrous and sulfur emissions.
Plus, the natural gas plant will use 99-percent less water than a coal-fired plant. Yet, it will still provide reliable, round-the-clock, “always available,” in-state power generation – even when the air is too calm to move wind turbines or the skies too cloudy to shine on solar panels.
In fact, natural gas now has overtaken coal as the leading source of power in the country’s balanced mix of domestic electric generation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. As DTE continues to reduce carbon emissions, the Blue Water Energy Center will maintain reliable and affordable service to customers, said Gerry Anderson, the utility’s chairman and CEO.
“As we Michiganders know well, the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine in our beautiful state. And that’s why we need natural gas-fueled plants like the Blue Water Energy Center,” he said.
“When it begins operations in 2022, it will represent our single largest step in reducing carbon emissions to date.”
Not only will the new DTE Blue Water Energy Center provide a clean, stable and affordable source of power to the whole state, but it will have a big impact on Michigan’s Thumb Region, in particular. The Thumb Region is uniquely positioned to host the state’s most-efficient power plant because of both existing transmission capability in the area and the fact that it has the largest underground storage of natural gas in the entire Midwest. Now, construction of the center will create more than 500 skilled construction jobs for Michigan contractors and ongoing operation will add upwards of 35 permanent jobs as well.
The plant will be built by Kiewit Engineering Co., which will spend a minimum of $200 million on Michigan-based labor and materials, according to DTE.
“The Blue Water Energy Center not only represents our commitment to a cleaner energy future, but our commitment to the St. Clair community,” Anderson said. “DTE has been part of this community for 65 years and we intend to continue to be a force for growth and prosperity here for a long time to come.”
Although the existing coal plant in Port Huron will be phased out, the new DTE Blue Water Energy Center will have a positive economic impact over the long haul, according to this Anderson Economic Group study. The new facility will generate more than $8 million per year in additional tax revenue for local governments.
“The new, cleaner natural gas power plant will create hundreds of jobs and provide additional revenue that we can put toward improving our roads, schools and other essential services,” said St. Clair County Commissioner Jeff Bohm. “This $1 billion investment is a significant boost to our community and helps assure continued job growth while ensuring we can meet our state’s energy needs.”