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Consumers Energy Ponders Removing All Hydroelectric Dams

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Consumers Energy is studying the cost of their hydroelectric dam future. They have 13 river-fed hydroelectric dams across the state, 11 in Northern Michigan, but with their licensing up in 12 years they are deciding now if the projects are worth it.

And if they decide they aren’t, that could be a major drain on local communities.

An example would be the Croton Dam Pond, a giant reservoir between the Croton Dam and the Hardy Dam, has dozens of businesses, hundreds of homes right along the water front and thousands of people visiting every year relying on it.

For more than 100 years it has been sitting there, but now as Consumers Energy is deciding what to do with all their hydroelectric dams and there’s a chance the pond may be gone for good.

“We’re looking at, does it make sense to keep maintaining, in a lot of cases, hundred year old facilities?” said Terry deDoes, spokesman for Consumers.

One hundred years ago, hydroelectric dams were a wave of the future, high tech. But that’s not the case so much anymore.

“All 13 of our hydroelectric dams contribute about one percent of our electric portfolio,” said DeDoes.

It costs 31 times more to generate electricity with a hydroelectric dam than a wind farm, which means Consumers is losing money on these facilities but understand the impact they have beyond that so now each dam has four options.

“Re-licensing and continuing to generate power with those, selling to a third-party, removing the dam and restoring the river to its natural state,” said DeDoes, “Or replacing the dam with a permanent structure that maintain some level of reservoir.”

This fall they held community meetings to get public comment. for the next six months they will conduct an impact study. It will put them one step closer to a decision on each of the 13 dams.

“They’re going to be looking at each individual dam,” said DeDoes, “And have a special report for each one of those individualized.”

The Consumers Energy dam’s include Hardy Dam, Calkins Bridge Dam, Croton Dam, Webber Dam, Rogers Dam, Mio Dam, Foote Dam, Cooke Dam, Tippy Dam, Hodenpyl Dam, Alcona Dam, Loud Dam and Five Channels Dam. 

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