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Michigan Utility Replacing Coal Plant With Large Energy Storage System

Michigan’s major electric utility said it plans to build one of the nation’s largest standalone battery energy storage projects at the site of a retired coal-fired power plant. Detroit-based DTE Energy on June 10 said it would convert part of the closed Trenton Channel power plant into a 220-MW energy storage facility. DTE retired Trenton Channel in 2022; the plant had operated in the Downriver region of the Detroit area since 1924, sending electricity across southeast Michigan. DTE officials on Monday said they expect the 880-MWh energy storage system will be operational by the end of 2026. The new plant is part of DTE’s CleanVision Integrated Resource Plan, which calls for the elimination of about 4,100 MW of coal-fired generation by 2035, and an accompanying transition to renewable energy. The utility already has announced plans to install more than 1,800 MW of battery energy storage by 2042. “Today, roughly one-third of all electricity generated by DTE comes from carbon-free resources,” said Jerry Norcia, chairman and CEO of DTE Energy. “Our world-class solar, wind, and nuclear generation facilities are delivering reliable and clean electricity to our customers, and the Trenton Channel Energy Center is a significant milestone in accelerating our clean energy journey.”

Increased Renewable Energy Generation

Officials said the new facility will store electricity during times of excess generation, then distribute the power to customers during periods of peak demand, helping reduce strain on the grid. The utility said the new power station also supports DTE’s growing amount of renewable generation by storing energy from wind and solar power. “DTE’s new Trenton Channel Energy Center will help us strengthen our grid and produce more clean power when it’s less costly and store it for later when we need it,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “DTE got this done with support from the Biden-Harris administration’s Inflation Reduction Act [IRA], further shoring up their position as Michigan’s top producer of renewable energy. Thanks to projects like today’s, strong federal leadership, and the Michigan Legislature’s clean energy and jobs package I signed into law last year, our future is bright. We will make more American energy using American workers, lower household energy costs, create tens of thousands of good-paying jobs, and protect our air, land, and lakes. Let’s get it done.” Funding for the Trenton Channel site’s repurposing includes $140 million in tax incentives through the 2022 IRA and its infrastructure investment provisions. Whitmer, whose administration created a MI Healthy Climate initiative for Michigan, said the project will bring the state closer to its goals for clean energy.

Carbon-Free by 2040

Michigan’s clean energy plan requires utilities to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. The plan also includes a goal of building 2,500 MW of energy storage by 2030. Trenton Mayor Steven Rzeppa in a statement said, “The City is thrilled to see DTE utilize its existing site here in Trenton to create an essential new element of its infrastructure. The Trenton plant was a fixture in our community for a century, and it’s encouraging to see DTE’s commitment to the site and the community, employing new technology here in a way that benefits DTE’s more than two million electric customers as well as the City of Trenton and its residents.” “At this site alone, we’re delivering nearly 10% of the state’s stored energy target and we have many more storage projects that we’re looking to complete and develop across the DTE service territory,” Norcia said during Monday's announcement. The Michigan Public Service Commission approved the new project in March, just hours after the smokestacks of the retired coal-fired plant were brought down. Norcia said the cost of the 20-acre battery energy storage project is about $500 million. The Trenton Channel coal plant had six 50-MW units during the early years of its operation. Two additional units of 120 MW each were added in 1950. A single 550-MW turbine generator entered service in 1968. Only the 550-MW was operating prior to the plant’s retirement in December 2022. —Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).