DTE restarts unit at St. Clair Station.
DTE Energy's second-largest power plant, the 1,547-megawatt (MW) St. Clair coal-burning generating station in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, has returned to partial service following a major fire in August. But it will be 2017 before the entire facility is back online. By the end of September, Michigan's largest electric utility had restarted one of St. Clair's smaller units representing only a fraction of the baseload plant's total capacity. The plant's largest unit, 450-MW Unit 7, also the most heavily damaged by the August 11 blaze, is not expected back in operation in 2016, according to company spokesman Brian Corbett. The company is still trying to determine what caused the massive fire whose billowing smoke could be seen for miles and was fought by dozens of first responders. There were no injuries.
Corbett did not indicate if DTE has declared a force majeure to St. Clair's steam coal suppliers. He confirmed, however, that coal deliveries have continued to the company's nearby 1,395-MW Belle River power plant. In all, DTE expects to burn nearly 17.5 million tons of coal in 2016. Almost half of that total will be consumed by the mammoth, 3,000-MW Monroe plant on the western shore of Lake Erie. Monroe not only is DTE's largest power plant, it is one of the largest coal plants in the United States. Its four generating units were built between 1971 and 1974.
Despite the fire and extended outage, Corbett said DTE has no plans to move up the planned retirement date for St. Clair. In June, DTE announced it would shutter 11 generating units at St. Clair, about 40 miles southeast of Detroit, and at its River Rouge and Trenton coal plants representing 2,500 MW by 2023. That would leave DTE with two remaining coal plants, Belle River and Monroe. While no retirement dates have been announced for either plant. Monroe almost certainly will remain in operation longer than Belle River.
DTE has a huge financial investment in Monroe after spending about $2 billion on pollution controls there in recent years. In addition, the company in late September unveiled plans to spend up to $1.5 billion to develop one or more new natural gas-burning plants in Michigan by the early 2020s to offset the retiring coal plant generation. One of the sites for the proposed gas plants is at Belle River, although DTE has not confirmed a gas plant will be built there. The first gas plant is estimated to be in commercial operation between 2021 and 2023.