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Alpine Power Plant on schedule

AlpineFrom The Petoskey News:
ELMIRA — Elmira has been an interesting place to be over the past few weeks to say the least.

More specifically, the railroad tracks running through town, across M-32, have been a captivating area bustling with activity as several enormous pieces of equipment have arrived by train. This equipment was later transported to the Alpine Power Plant as the Wolverine Power Cooperative-owned project continues to advance toward completion.

“Everything is on schedule and we are excited with how (the project) has advanced,” said Ken Bradstreet, government affairs consultant for Wolverine Power Cooperative. “It’s been very good to see everything come together like it has.”

One of two generators to be used at the plant arrived Dec. 1 by rail and was stored on the tracks near the Railside Bar and Grill until it was relocated to the power plant Dec. 4.

The 300-ton, 18,000-volt General Electric generator was shipped by train from Schenectady, N.Y., located approximately 170 miles north of New York City. After arriving in Elmira, it was transported by a self-propelled trailer to its new home.

Both generators will connect to two General Electric natural gas-firing turbines, which were expected to arrive from Greenville, N.C., this week or next week. The turbines spin the generators to create the electricity which will be sent to locations around Northern Michigan.

The arrival and installation of this equipment is just a small portion of the project that has been ongoing for several months.

Leading up to this point, extensive work has been completed around the project area, including foundation, underground infrastructure and other prep work.

Following its arrival, the generator was mounted and placed, and the second generator will receive the same treatment once it arrives. When the turbines come, they are expected to be transported and connected to the generators, a combination estimated to weigh more than a million pounds.

Once all the equipment is mounted and placed, testing will begin, likely in early spring.

While waiting for the arrival of the equipment, construction of an administrative building and a control building has continued. Work is also being completed at a switch yard on Van Tyle Road — in a wooded area in the middle of Van Tyle, Coppins and Hayes Tower roads. The switch yard will take the power generated at the plant down the corridor along M-32 and connect it to the International Transmission Company (ITC) line north of Van Tyle Road.

Bradstreet said Wolverine hopes to have all of the interconnection work completed by May. It plans to have the entire plant operational by the summer.

The electricity generated at the plant will benefit Wolverine Power Cooperative users, including Great Lakes Energy, Cherryland Electric Cooperative and Presque Isle Electric and Gas.

Local leaders are excited to see the impact the plant will have on Otsego County and the rest of the region.

“Having (the plant) in our area is great,” said State Rep. Triston Cole, R-Mancelona, whose district includes Otsego County. “It shows how invested Wolverine (Power Cooperative) is in Michigan’s future. It’s a big deal and it shows Northern Michigan is open for business and serious about providing electricity to its residents.”

State Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, represents the 37th state Senate District — including Antrim, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Luce and Mackinac counties — said though the plant is being constructed in a location not in his constituency, the benefits of the plant are something the region as a whole will enjoy.

“To have that added capacity in Northern Michigan is tremendous,” he said. “It makes a lot of sense to locate it here. It is right in the center of northern lower Michigan and that helps the entire northern part. It’s near the gas lines, Class A roads and rail infrastructure.

“It’s a huge investment and obviously, with the construction jobs and added tax base, this is great for Northern Michigan.”

For several years, $300,000 in tax revenue is expected to be go into the Otsego County general fund from the plant, with Elmira Township receiving approximately $150,000 for its general fund and fire department millage, $80,000 to Gaylord Community Schools, $30,000 to Otsego County EMS, $50,000 to M-TEC Gaylord, $45,000 to University Center Gaylord and $75,000 to the Otsego County Road Commission.

“I’m very excited to see this project moving along,” said John Burt, Otsego County administrator, in an email. “The new plant will not only help to ensure a stable source of electricity for Northern Michigan, but will also be an economic boon for Otsego County.”