WTE Steam Line
Kent County broke ground on October 2, 1987 for a 625 tons-per-day refuse-to energy plant on the corner of Market Freeman Avenues, located 1.5 miles from the Fulton Street Steam Plant.
Covanta Systems of Kent built the plant under a 20-year agreement to operate and maintain both plants on behalf of the County. In October of 1989, Covanta took over operation and maintenance of the Fulton Street Steam Plant from Consumers Energy and on February 1, 1990 the Waste-to-Energy Facility (WTE) began commercial operation. WTE serves all of Kent County.
Two types of energy are produced at the WTE: (1) the electricity generated by a steam drive electric turbine and (2) co-generated steam which is sent to the District Heating System via a 1.5 mile underground steam line that connects both plants. The electricity is sold to Consumers Energy Co. and the steam is sold to customers on the District Heating System.
The 18 inch-diameter, high pressure (150-200 psi) steam line was designed to be operated at higher temperatures (415 degrees F) when steam was being exported from the WTE Facility to the Fulton Steam Facility. The export steam line follows the Market Avenue right of way through a district immediately south of downtown not served by other steam lines.
The County disconnected the steam line at the WTE Facility and the steam line was included as part of the sale of the DHCO (District Heating & Cooling Operations). Currently all steam at the WTE is used to produce electricity, which is sold to CMS under PURPA (Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act) of 1978 in which utilities were required to buy renewable energy.
Many thanks to Bill Allen, Waste to Energy Division Director of the Kent County Department of Public Works, for generously sharing his knowledge about the history and operation of the Grand Rapids Steam Plant and WTE.