Consumers Energy is spending about $400 million at the Ludington Pumped Storage facility a couple miles south of Ludington on Lake Michigan.
Starting last year, Consumers and its partner DTE Energy began the expenditure of $800 million to replace six massive turbine generators at the jointly owned facility by 2019.
A huge reservoir on top of a high bluff stores electricity on a 24-hour cycle; electricity on the grid not needed at night is used to pump water up from Lake Michigan into the mile-long reservoir. During the day, when demand for electricity is high, it is released back down into Lake Michigan, generating electricity that is put back on the grid.
Completed in 1973, the Ludington facility stores 1,872 megawatts, enough electricity for a city of 1.4 million. The combined motor/generators weigh about 600 tons each.
The huge replacement generators, being built and installed by Toshiba of Japan, are more efficient and will increase the storage capacity to 2,172 megawatts of power.
Hardman Construction in Ludington is a key contractor on the project and recently installed an improved barge dock on Lake Michigan at the plant. Another West Michigan company involved is Grand River Construction.
About 40 Consumers employees run the Pumped Storage facility, with the upgrade requiring an additional 100 workers from the various contractors involved.
“There is a lot of engineering that goes into this — a tremendous amount,” said Consumers spokesman Roger Morgenstern.
Under the Pure Michigan Business Connect program, Consumers has committed to increase its spending with Michigan-based businesses by $1 billion over five years. The company already spends about $2 billion annually.