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DTE replaces coal-fired power plant with large battery storage system

Trenton — DTE Energy on Monday outlined its plans to build a large-scale battery storage facility at the site of the former Trenton Channel Power Plant, a coal-fired power plant that will close in 2022 after generating electricity downstream for nearly a century.

The Trenton Channel Energy Center will be able to store 220 megawatts of electricity, enough power to power 40,000 homes. DTE expects the project to be the largest standalone battery storage project in the Great Lakes region when it is completed in 2026.

“At this site alone, we meet nearly 10% of the state's energy storage needs, and we have many more storage projects we plan to complete and develop throughout DTE's service territory,” DTE CEO Jerry Norcia said Monday.

The Michigan Public Service Commission approved DTE's plans for the lithium iron phosphate battery storage plant in March.

Battery storage allows utilities to store excess renewable electricity from wind turbines and solar panels on windy, sunny days. The grid can then draw energy from these batteries when energy demand exceeds supplies from wind and solar.

Utility executives, local, state and federal lawmakers representing the region, and Biden administration clean energy officials announced details of the plan Monday in a tent at the Trenton Channel site.

Eric Hsieh, assistant secretary for energy storage in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Electricity, touted the construction of battery factories and storage facilities across the U.S. since the federal Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 incentivized them.

“Just five years ago, a 220-megawatt, 880-megawatt-hour battery power plant would have been the largest in the country, but as a sign of how quickly things are changing, and thanks to targeted research and development from the Department of Energy and the Inflation Reduction Act, Trenton will be in good company,” Hsieh said. “It will join a cohort of large-scale grid battery resources now featured in over 70 utility plans (integrated resource plans) across the country.”

The cost of the nearly 20-acre battery storage plant in Trenton is nearly $500 million, Norcia said Monday. The company has received about $140 million in tax breaks through the IRA's infrastructure investment provisions.

Energy storage is an essential part of the decarbonization efforts required by the state's 2023 Clean Energy Plan, which requires utilities to provide 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040. The plan also includes a goal of building 2,500 megawatts of storage capacity by 2030, Whitmer said Monday.

“DTE's new center here in Trenton will help us meet 10% of the statewide storage goal all on our own,” Whitmer said. “That's a big deal. Reaching that standard will help us store enough energy to strengthen our grid and increase reliability during peak demand.”

Until their demolition in March, two 600-foot-tall, red-and-white-striped, candy-cane-shaped smokestacks stood on the Trenton Channel site and were a landmark for the Downriver community. DTE burned coal to generate electricity at the site from 1924 to 2022.

Trenton Mayor Steven Rzeppa pointed out that Monday's announcement came almost exactly two years after the ceremony to close the coal-fired plant.

“I probably hid it well, but I wasn't particularly thrilled to be there that day,” Rzeppa said. “If the closure of the coal-fired power plant marked the end of an era, then today marks a bright new beginning for all of us.”

The former power plant's brick boiler house is scheduled to be demolished and removed on June 21, Norcia said.

“This makes the site available for future expansion,” he said. “This is the first phase of the battery systems here. There may be further phases… Because of the size of the site, we could continue to expand here. It's not unreasonable to think that over time we could more than double the capacity here or bring other generation resources back to this site.”

DTE will buy the batteries from Powin, an Oregon company that makes large battery systems, Norcia said. The battery plant will serve the same area in Downriver and metro Detroit as the former coal-fired plant, he said.

“It's a strategic interface to our transmission grid,” Norcia said. “The transmission grid was built to move a tremendous amount of the energy generated here to southeast Michigan and support the grid. We will reuse the site optimally over time.”

ckthompson@detroitnews.com

Anna Harden

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