The MBLP, through a number of events, has come to realize that we have a reliability problem because of constraints in the transmission grid, aging generation assets and environmental regulations.

  • Marquette is located in a load pocket (insufficient transmission system capacity to serve load during an emergency). The MBLP needs to generate power locally for reliability reasons.
  • As of October 31, 2014, MISO has denied any MBLP requests for any amount of firm point to point transmission service. Even during the MBLP unit maintenance and upgrade outages, firm transmission has been denied.
  • The Presque Isle Power Plant (PIPP) is planned for retirement in 2020. The loss of these units at PIPP will have a major impact on the transmission system reliability in the north central U.P.
  • If there is an outage of Unit 3 (44 MW) and a transmission system upset, the MBLP may be cut off from purchasing power which would result in blackouts for our area.
  • The BLP is in need of quick start, available any time, generation to ensure ongoing reliability and low cost rates for its customers.
  • Network Integrated Transmission Services (NITS) which costs over $3 million a year just to join the network may not be available for 4 or more years.
  • The MBLP generation units are aging with an average age of 38 years.
    • Our newest main unit is Shiras Steam Plant Unit No. 3. This was commissioned over 32 years ago.
    • Unit No 2 is over 44 years old and takes 10 hours to start.
    • On 1/31/2017, in order to meet new environmental regulations, we will only be able to use it 10 percent of the time without having to invest large amounts of money.
    • Our fuel oil fired Combustion Turbine is over 36 years and used only during emergencies.


To solve this reliability problem, the MBLP has developed the following plan that is both environmentally and economically responsible.  The MBLP, at its Wright Street Complex, will build a new “Marquette Energy Center”.

  • The new Marquette Energy Center will consist of three (3) environmentally clean reciprocating internal combustion engines (RICE) which will supply 50 MW of quick start, available at any time, power.
  • These environmentally clean Wartsila engines will burn natural gas as their primary fuel and will switch over to fuel oil when necessary.
  • These engines are extremely energy efficient and can achieve full load capacity in five minutes.
  • They are Black Start capable which will aid in ensuring Marquette has reliable power.
  • Each engine uses only one gallon of water per week and meets or exceeds all the environmental regulations.
  • These engines will provide a segway for future renewable projects, such as, solar and wind.
  • By using natural gas fired units, the MBLP will reduce dependence on coal and support compliance with upcoming CO 2 regulations.
  • The new Marquette Energy Center will support the Michigan Smart Zone in their effort to attract new business, tourism and residents to the area.
  • BLP customers will continue being independent of the outside world for their power supply and reliability. BLP customers will retain local control and local ownership of their utility. Jobs, dollars, and taxes will be kept local for reinvestment into the community.
  • BLP’s new Energy Center supports the governor’s “Michigan Energy Solution” by adding more generation into the Marquette area.


  • Wartsila generation meets the BLP’s requirement of quick start (ramp up to 25% load in 2 minutes and full load in 5 minutes) anytime generation. Wartsila units can be cycled on/off without reducing time to the next overhaul.

  • Wartsila units are dual fuel (natural gas or fuel oil), with the ability to switch between fuels while online. This is important when natural gas supplies are limited or curtailed.

  • Wartsila units are black start capable.

  • Wartsila units have a very low heat rate (7,260 btu/kwh), use only one gallon of water per week, and operate throughout their load range with no loss of efficiently.

  • Wartsila units do not require expensive natural gas compression (a recent 120 MW combustion turbine project required over $5 million for gas compression).

  • Wartsila units are environmentally clean and compliant (easily permitted in California).

  • Installing multiple Wartsila units (3) increases reliability by not having to rely on only one (1) unit.

  • Wartsila 18 cylinder RICE units are the largest internal combustion engines in the world and weigh nearly 300 tons and produce 25,000 horsepower. These large engines will be shipped from Italy to the Shiras Coal Dock where they will be loaded onto 20 axel trailers and transported to the Marquette Energy Center.

  • RICE units are a right sized fit for the BLP’s needs now and for decades into the future.


The Marquette Energy Center will be located at the Office/Warehouse Complex at 2200 Wright Street. The existing pole and transformer yard will be relocated to the west side of the complex. The site is sized for three 18 MW Wartsila RICE units with space for a future fourth unit. These RICE units are able to burn natural gas or fuel oil. This dual fuel capability is needed for reliability, especially during times natural gas is limited or curtailed. Seven days of fuel oil storage will be located on site.