B.C. Cobb Generating Plant

B.C. Cobb Generating Plant“While we’ve been lighting up Michigan homes and businesses for more than 60 years, we also pump a lot of energy into our communities."

“In addition to leading Boy Scout troops and coaching youth teams, we partner with several local groups to help brighten up the holiday season each winter by stringing lights at Veterans Memorial Park along the Muskegon Causeway."

“Besides producing enough power to serve a community of about 200,000 people, we’re also committed to another kind of ‘production’ — the proliferation of wildlife.”

 — Cobb Employees

Safety First

Safety is our top priority — for our employees and our customers. That’s why we’ve made safety an integral part of our vision for all of our generating plants throughout Michigan.

Our employees work safely in the plant to help keep themselves and our communities safe. Here are some key ways we put safety first in everything we do:

  • Employees attend regular safety meetings, follow established safety policies and procedures and are provided with and required to wear hard hats, safety glasses, earplugs and other personal protective equipment 
  • Employees receive regular training on important health, safety and environmental issues that include working in confined spaces and first aid-CPR

Employees bring their award-winning safety knowledge and background into numerous volunteer activities in the communities we serve. They volunteer as firefighters, paramedics, auxiliary police, educators, Red Cross helpers, coaches, scouting leaders and more.

Be sure to visit the Awards and Milestones pages for each plant.

About the Plant

The Cobb plant is located on a 300-acre site beside Muskegon Lake, where its waters meet the Muskegon River. It was dedicated on April 28, 1949, and is named for Bernard Capen “Burt” Cobb, a former company president from 1915-34 and director from 1911-34. Cobb was the first president to succeed company founder William A. Foote.

Location: Just over a mile from Lake Michigan on the shores of Muskegon Lake, where its waters meet the Muskegon River.

Employees: 116

Safety: The plant has won several national and company awards for safe operation. Employees place great value on being safe at work. They believe that coming home safely at the end of the day is the best gift they can give their families.

Plant Site: The 300-acre site includes fields, ponds and woods that proliferate with wildlife.

Electric Generating Capacity: 320 megawatts, enough to power a community of about 200,000 people.

Fuel: The two coal units burn an 80 percent blend of western coal and 20 percent eastern coal. Low-sulfur western coal makes its way from Wyoming and Montana, while eastern coal is delivered to the plant from a variety of states.  The plant consumes about 1 million tons of coal per year. .

Generating Units: Units 4 and 5 burn coal and began operating in 1956 and 1957, respectively. Each can produce up to 160 megawatts. Units 1, 2 and 3 were first commissioned to burn coal in 1948 and 1950. They were retired in 1990 and then repowered to burn natural gas a few years later. Currently, the three 60 megawatt units are in layup currently until economic conditions warrant their utilization, which depends on the fluctuating price of natural gas. The Cobb Plant is a baseload facility, generally operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year..

Stack Height: 650 feet.

Economic Impact: Cobb employees and their families significantly contribute to the local economy each year. In addition, Consumers Energy pays about $4 million a year in property taxes on the Cobb plant to local government.

How It Works

Diagram of how Consumers Energy generates electricity from coal

Operations

Cobb began producing electricity in 1948.  The coal-fired units are considered baseload, because they are designed to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Power production at Cobb begins with delivery of western coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana and eastern coal from a variety of states.

The plant can generate up to 320 megawatts, enough electricity to serve a community of about 200,000 people.

The plant has won several national and company awards for safe operation.

Environmental Commitment

For more than 60 years, Cobb employees have worked to protect and preserve the environment including the waterfowl and other birds on and around the 300-acre site. 

Members of an employee environmental enhancement team volunteer their time to make the site a more enticing area for animals and to protect and manage outstanding natural features.

To supplement existing wildlife habitat, employees and groups have instituted nest-monitoring programs for eastern screech owls, peregrine falcons, purple martins and house wrens. In 2003, peregrine falcons nested in a box on the plant stack for the first time. The employees’ wildlife habitat programs were first certified in 1991 by the Wildlife Habitat Council. The plant’s environmental management plan includes:

  • Planting 325 spruce trees to beautify Consumers Energy property near the plant
  • Erecting 50 bluebird and 200 wood duck nesting boxes
  • Developing a butterfly garden at the plant entrance
  • Planting wildflower meadows

Employees continually monitor and analyze the air, water and soil to ensure the plant meets state and federal requirements.

Environmental Partnerships

  • Muskegon County Nature Club
  • Muskegon County Duck Hunters Association
  • City of Muskegon Leisure Services Department
  • Wildlife Habitat Council

Awards

1997:The National Safety Council presents employees with an Award of Commendation for excellent safety performance over more than a year.

1998-2004: Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership is established. The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality certification recognizes voluntary pollution-prevention efforts.

2000: The National Safety Council recognizes Cobb employees for completing the previous year with no lost-time injuries.

Community Support

Besides participating in an annual United Way fundraising campaign, employees and retirees are active in many organizations in the communities where they live and work.

In addition, Cobb employees have adopted a section of M-120 through the State sponsored Adopt-A-Highway program. This is the 8th year employees have cleaned along the road.  They do this three times a year.

The Consumers Energy Foundation provides Volunteer Investment Program (VIP) grants that can be used to support these worthwhile activities.  Since 1992, the foundation has awarded VIP grants totaling $1.5 million to more than 3,200 organizations on behalf of nearly 4,900 employees and retirees.

To learn more about employee and retiree volunteer efforts, please visit the Consumers Energy Foundation.

Milestones

1948: Coal-fueled units 1 and 2 begin operating

1950: Coal-fueled unit 3 begins operating

1956: Coal-fueled unit 4 begins operating

1957: Coal-fueled unit 5 begins operating

1990: Units 1, 2 and 3 retired

1991: First certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council for programs that enhance and protect area wildlife.

1998: First certified in the Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership by the MDEQ for voluntary pollution prevention efforts.

1999: Idle coal-fueled unit 2 is repowered to burn natural gas.

2000: Idle coal-fueled units 1 and 3 repowered to burn natural gas.

2003: Peregrine falcons raise three young in a nesting box on the plant stack more than 200 feet above ground, becoming only the second known nesting site for the rare birds on Michigan’s west coast.