Natural Gas Power Plant to be Built in REO Town

September 12, 2014 at 3:55 PM

Monday, January 31, 2011

By Dmitri Barvinok | Kickin’ It Old Town Staff Writer
January 31, 2011 • 11:11 PM

LANSING – Mayor Virg Bernero announced Monday during the State of the City address that not only has the economy been recovering, but a new natural gas power plant will be built in REO Town. The plant will replace a current coal power plant and bring clean energy to Lansing.

The Lansing Board of Water & Light is responsible for the project, and hopes to begin operating the plant in 2013. BWL representative Mark Nixon said construction will begin this summer. Further specifics are not currently available.

The power plant is only part of a series of “strategic investments” that will “help the Lansing region take another giant leap forward in reducing our dependence on coal and increasing our utilization, renewable sources of energy,” Bernero said.

Lansing currently has the second lowest unemployment rate in Michigan and the seventh fastest job growth, he added.

As an added bonus, the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Depot on Washington Avenue will be renovated into an office space for the plant to be built next door. The new building will be similar in style to the rest of the neighborhood. The two buildings will use 51,100 square feet.

Construction of the power plant will further bolster the Lansing economy, which has already shown significant improvement. Evidence of the improvements can be seen in the manufacturing sector, which saw 2,000 newly created jobs in 2010. This is the first positive growth in manufacturing in the Lansing area in 15 years and is largely credited to the return of the auto industry.

These economic gains allow the city of Lansing to focus on other important issues, like clean and alternative energy. According to a BWL press release, the natural gas plant is estimated to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent, compared to the coal power plant. Solar panels will also be installed on the roof of the building.

The BWL is largest public utility in Michigan, and was the first to embrace alternative energy solutions.

The reduction of carbon emissions is part of the utility’s plan to reduce all greenhouse emissions by 20 percent by 2020, outpacing the federal requirement of 17 percent.

The gas plant has a $182 million price tag attached, but Michigan State professor Steven Haider warned against placing too much importance on this number.

“The devil’s in the details,” he said.

According to Haider, a $182 million price means very little, as it does not convey whether that accounts for maintenance, whether it’s paid over several years, or immediately.

The construction of the plant, however, can have a large economic impact on Lansing, especially if local labor is used. If specialized skills are required from other areas, less money will stay in the community, but any money paid to workers will multiply through local businesses, Haider said.

The project will relocate 180 BWL workers to the new building, as well as create 1,000 temporary construction jobs in the area.