Holland BPW cleans up contaminated site for new power plant


The site needed to be cleared of more than 350 used tires and thousands of cubic yards of concrete. Courtesy Holland BPW

Visitors approaching the city of Holland from the east will be welcomed by a much more vibrant vista than in the past, thanks to the Holland Board of Public Works’ efforts to clean up the long-contaminated and rundown area.

The property is being cleaned up in preparation for a new power plant and energy park.

The 26-acre area, which sits on the border of the city of Holland and Holland Township just north of Eighth Street at Fairbanks Avenue, was once a dumping ground for anything from appliances to tires and building materials.

“People had been using it to dispose of things,” said Dan Nally, director of business services for Holland BPW. “I think we took out over 350 tires. We recycled steel and metals. We reclaimed a lot of concrete.

“We brought in a very large crusher and crushed all the concrete. We removed the reinforcement steel rod in much of it and recycled that. We reclaimed about 25,000 cubic yards of crushed concrete. We will use the crushed concrete here on site for various purposes.”

The area also contained rundown structures plus a slew of pollutants that had contaminated the soil and wetlands.

“There were 26 residential homes, six commercial businesses and one industrial business,” Nally said. “We ended up purchasing all of those. We had to go through those and remediate them.

“All of the structures have been demolished; all of the remediation work from a soil standpoint has been done.”

The new $200 million gas combined-cycle power plant will replace the James De Young Power Plant, a coal-burning plant located on the waterfront.

“The first units were built in the ’40s,” Nally said. “The current oldest unit operating was built in the early ’50s. They are reaching their end of life.”

Nally said the utility business is always looking at least 20 years down the line, and by that time, Holland’s energy needs will be substantially higher.

Holland BPW solicited residents’ feedback as it developed its energy plan. The final plan includes not only the new power plant but also the adoption of wind energy contracts and a conservation plan to support the community’s goals for sustainability.

The new power plant promises to be 50 percent more efficient than the old one, according to Nally.

He said it also will have 99 percent less sulfur dioxide and much less nitrous oxide.

“It’s a very clean, state-of-the-art power plant,” he said.

The plant is being built to achieve Certified Platinum status under the Envision rating system, which Nally compared to LEED status but for infrastructure.

“Envision is like LEED on steroids,” Nally said. “It is a process that looks at the whole project, not just the building. What Envision is looking at is sustainability of the project. It looks at how does it fit into the environment, how was the community involved in the determination of the project?”

Holland BPW has entered into contracts for 32 megawatts of wind power and established programs to help homes, businesses and institutions improve energy efficiency. These efforts will help the city reduce its carbon footprint to 10 metric tons per capita.

“We have a carbon footprint of about 23 metric tons per capita,” Nally said. “If we don’t change that, the carbon footprint will change to over 30 to 35 tons per capita.”

The 26-acre site will include walking paths through the restored habitat for community use and will provide educational programming to area school children.

“We intend to have the ability to use the power plant as an educational tool as it relates to the environment and power production, and as it relates to the wetlands that are just to the north of the site,” Nally said.

The wetlands restoration and the removal of invasive species will continue over the next three to five years.

“We are working with the Outdoor Discovery Center and Macatawa Greenway Group,” Nally said. “We are coordinating that work with them, so that will be ongoing.”

Nally said the new power plant would also support an extended snowmelt system.

“The snowmelt system we currently have is about half a million square feet, 40 million BTUs per hour,” he said. “The De Young Power Plant provides the heated water for that and it is maxed out; we couldn’t provide anymore.

“With the new power plant, we can support four to five times the snowmelt square footage we actually have. This will allow us to expand that to increase the amount of sidewalk — possibly the amount of street — we can put snowmelt in.”

Holland BPW is also working to develop a district heating system, which would use the snowmelt system to provide heating and cooling to commercial buildings downtown.

“If you look at this power plant — yeah, it’s a power plant that makes electricity, but it’s also providing snowmelt, it’s going to provide heating and cooling, recreation, and it’s going to be less polluting,” Nally said. “It’s a pretty neat project.”

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