UP Power: Utility plans Baraga plant

Vanessa Dietz/Daily Mining Gazette With state Rep. Scott Dianda in the foreground, We Energies Principal Account Manager John Estes delivered some good news to the Baraga County Board Monday: Upper Michigan Energy Resources is coming to town.

L’ANSE — WEC Energy Group plans to build an energy center in Baraga as part of its new utility, Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation, a company official told the Baraga County Board on Monday.

State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, was on hand for the company’s presentation, leaving with company officials and Commissioner Gale Eilola shortly thereafter.

“We want to generate power in the U.P.,” said Dianda, who serves on the House energy committee. “I want to see the development in the area … (and) focus on the future.”

While the new facility won’t have any full-time on-site workers, We Energies Principal Account Manager John Estes assured the commissioners the new facility is pretty much a sure thing and said plenty of temporary construction jobs will be created, along with some maintenance and security staff being added along the way.

“Definitely in Baraga,” Estes said of the estimated $255 million project expected to add $1 million to area tax rolls. “Unless something really bad happens that I don’t know about.”

Locally, Upper Michigan Energy Resources Corporation will provide electric service to southeastern Ontonagon County and the southernmost portions of Houghton and Baraga counties. The corporation began operations Jan. 1.

As part of its plan, WEC is working on acquiring about five acres northwest of Baraga village to build the new plant with reciprocating internal combustion engines. Expected to be comprised of three or four units, the plant will put out at least 25 megawatts.

According to its agreement with the state, the new utility will construct, own and operate approximately 170 megawatts of power by 2019. Upon receipt of regulatory approvals, construction will begin this year, or early next year.

A Fortune 500 company, WEC provides services to nearly 4.4 million customers in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota across 70,000 miles of electric distribution lines, 44,000 miles of natural gas distribution and transmission lines, and 8,800 megawatts of reliable power plant capacity.

Upper Michigan Energy Resources, a subsidiary of WEC Energy Group, serves nearly 40,000 energy customers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Customer service continues through We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service in the areas the two energy providers served prior to formation of Upper Michigan Energy Resources.

As two of WEC’s principal utilities, We Energies delivers natural gas to about 1.1 million customers in communities across Wisconsin and electricity to about 1.1 million customers in areas of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan and Wisconsin Public Service delivers electricity to more than 450,000 customers.