Grand Rapids Business Journal reported frequently between 2002 and 2013 on the woes of Holland Board of Public Works’ coal-fired plant, including the 2008 lawsuit brought by Sierra Club for alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act. It is with pleasure, however, that the Business Journal remarks on the occasion of the city’s grand opening of its $240-million energy park, boasting a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions, nearly complete elimination of solid particle pollutants and which doubles the fuel efficiency of the city’s fuel generation.
The plant already has the attention of environmental specialists and is the first baseload power generating plant in the country to receive an Envision award (Platinum) by the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure. It is no insignificant feat, especially for the second-most populated city along the western shore of Lake Michigan, between Chicago and Lake Superior. And it was no walk in the park for longtime HBPW General Manager Dave Koster, who early in the new millennium was immersed in plans to invest millions in a major expansion of the plant using a cleaner coal-burning technology.
The Sierra Club suit alleged the then-James DeYoung power plant was emitting pollution 3 1/2 times the EPA limit to protect public health, according to its air pollution monitoring. The suit was settled as new BPW plans emerged and Sierra Club members became advocates for the BPW’s decision to use the most advanced technologies available. The Holland Board of Public Works is a community-owned enterprise providing electric generation and distribution, water, wastewater treatment and broadband utility services to business and residential customers. As construction progressed and use of coal was phased out, the BPW also purchased power from wind farms in Michigan and Indiana.
Holland’s new energy park includes an interactive visitor’s center with exhibit space, highlighting the history and science behind power generation. It features a self-imposed sound limit of 50 decibels at the property boundaries, light attenuation to reduce the amount of light pollution generated during operation, and semi-translucent glass windows to prevent birds from flying into them.
Barry Nicholls, Siemens senior vice president of sales and head of the power and gas division for the United States, told the Business Journal, “Every possible neighborly thing they could consider they’ve considered, whether it’s emissions, views, vegetation or noise emissions.”
The Business Journal celebrates Koster’s walk in the new Holland Energy Park, and that of its citizens and visitors.