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J.R. WHITING FACILITY TO END 64 YEARS OF OPERATION

Coal-fired plant in Monroe Co. closes next week

  • n6tour-4

    Neil Dziedzic, plant manager at the J.R. Whiting power plant in Monroe County, gives a tour of the coal-fired facility. The power station is one of many being shuttered as markets shift toward natural gas and clean, renewable energy.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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    The 328-megawatt plant is the oldest and smallest of the coal-fired power plants that Consumers Energy operates.

    THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
    Buy This Image

n6tour-4

Neil Dziedzic, plant manager at the J.R. Whiting power plant in Monroe County, gives a tour of the coal-fired facility. The power station is one of many being shuttered as markets shift toward natural gas and clean, renewable energy.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

ERIE — Say good-bye to the coal-fired J.R. Whiting power plant along the Lake Erie shoreline in Monroe County’s Erie Township.

Its 64-year run of electricity production ends next Friday.

The 328-megawatt plant, which opened in 1952, is the oldest and smallest of the coal-fired power plants in the Consumers Energy fleet.

n6boiler-1

The 328-megawatt plant is the oldest and smallest of the coal-fired power plants that Consumers Energy operates.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

With tighter federal rules on coal-fired power plants — they’re major sources of mercury and spew climate-altering carbon dioxide, sooty sulfur dioxide, and other major pollutants — Whiting is one of many aging stations being shuttered as markets shift more toward natural gas and clean, renewable energy.

The plant’s fate was sealed by natural gas prices that plummeted once fracking took hold a few years ago.

Fracking, the act of pulverizing shale bedrock, has been around for decades. But a new horizontal drilling technique made it possible to extract previously trapped natural gas and oil.

Whiting has three of seven coal-fired units Consumers Energy announced it will retire April 15. 

IN PICTURES: J.R. Whiting power plant

The other four units are at the J.C. Weadock plant in Bay County’s Hampton Township and the B.C. Cobb plant in Muskegon, both of which have two units.

“We’re very proud of the efforts our team has made to run a great facility,” Neil J. Dziedzic, Whiting plant manager, said during a final tour Thursday.

Consumers announced in 2011 that Whiting’s run would end in 2015, but officials extended it one more year.

Whiting had 160 workers during its peak. Its remaining 71 employees are being reassigned to other plants or opting for retirement, Mr. Dziedzic said.

He said Consumers is especially proud the 679 consecutive days of generating electricity from Whiting Unit 3 — a company record and one of the longest uninterrupted runs in U.S. history.

From the plant’s rooftop, viewers saw practically nothing left on the parcel of land used to stockpile coal for the last 64 years. All that was left was coal ready to be unloaded from several train cars.

During its heyday, the plant would have burned coal from 130 to 160 train cars a week, Mr. Dziedzic said.

Whiting generated $723,260 in property taxes in 2014, the company said.

Consumers Energy’s focus will shift to the 540-megawatt natural gas plant in Jackson it bought in 2012, as well as renewables.

Plans for the soon-to-be shuttered site will be announced later, Mr. Dziedzic said.

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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