The BL&P's Shiras Steam Plant has a bigger impact on Marquette County than most people realize, specifically in its area of coverage.
"It's the City of Marquette, nine surrounding townships, approximately 16,000 meters, 16,000 customers in those areas," says Tom Carpenter, production superintendent.
Ninety percent of the power in those areas comes from the plant. That requires approximately 200,000 tons of coal per year. The coal is brought in on trucks and fed through conveyors into bunkers. It's then pulverized into powder and fed into a boiler sustaining the fire needed to turn water into steam. After the steam is fed into a turbine, electricity is created and sent through the substations to us, the customers.
The plant got a lasting leg up on the competition by creating cleaner, more efficient energy in the eighties when it created Shiras Unit Number 3.
"Unit 3 has a scrubber and baghouse which is used to remove S02 from the flue gas before it exits the stack," says engineer Josh Hendrickson. "The system uses a lime slurry which is shot out of a wheel. It spins at 7,000 rpm's and helps remove S02 from the flue gas and fly ash particles."
In 2009, Unit 3 was voted seventh cleanest coal-fire boiler in the nation and still has at least 20 years of life left in it. That doesn't mean that the plant isn't already thinking about the future. The plant is weighing options for expansion, which would increase the plant's output and guarantee room to grow in the future when their existing units become outdated.
If you want your own tour of the Shiras Steam Plant, you'll have a chance at the BL&P's open house at their Wright Street office Thursday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.