The city of Hillsdale’s backup generators have been out of service for the past four years, but in two months they will be completely upgraded with newly-installed cooling towers. Total repairs — which began in 2015 — cost more than $470,000, funded by the Board of Public Utilities’ budget.
Assistant Director Chris McArthur said the BPU chose to restore the generators because the Midcontinent Independent System Operator will provide the BPU with income based on how often the generators are used during the year.
“Once a year MISO pays us money back to have those generators available in case there’s an issue with the power on the grid,” McArthur said. “But we are not required to have backup power. The generators are for liability purposes.”
Hillsdale is a member of the Michigan South Central Power Agency, which is located in Litchfield and also provides electricity to the villages of Clinton and Union City, and the cities of Coldwater and Marshall.
The MSCPA provides energy for Hillsdale on a daily basis and charges the city per megawatt based on the MISO Energy Market. The price of energy fluctuates hourly, so the price skyrockets during extreme weather conditions, including on the hottest and coldest days of the year. McArthur said when the price of energy rises above $70 per megawatt, the city of Hillsdale uses its backup generators for power to save money. Hillsdale uses its generators about 10 to 12 days out of the year.
“It’s all about economies of scale,” said Glen White, MSCPA general manager. “We make sure the city of Hillsdale has all the energy it needs.”
Hillsdale joined the MSCPA when it was founded in 1982 as part of a joint effort for the five communities to save money on electricity, White said.
“If the grid went down, Hillsdale would be able to provide for some of its needs with its generators,” White said.
In the past the Hillsdale generators were cooled with water drawn from Baw Beese Lake. After cooling, the water was dumped back into the lake according to Hillsdale’s Department of Environmental Quality noncontact cooling water permit.
McArthur said the BPU will finish installing the towers in approximately two months.