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Updated December 15, 2009, 10:01 pm

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J.H. Campbell Generating Complex

J.H. Campbell Generating Complex“To any classroom of children that has visited our 150-acre Biological Field Station, it’s obvious that protecting the environment is as important to us as generating electricity.”

“We view environmental stewardship as a basic responsibility. Whether it’s maintaining our bluebird nesting and monitoring project or helping Scouts earn merit badges, we aim to do our part in preserving and enhancing the environment in which we work.”

“We’re dedicated to working safely and delivering reliable electricity to our customers at a fair price, while doing our part to preserve Michigan’s natural resources.”

            — Campbell 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.

About the Plant

The Campbell Complex is located on a 2,000-acre site along the Lake Michigan shoreline near West Olive, Mich. The complex is named after James H. Campbell, a former company president from 1960-72. Campbell Unit 1 first began providing electricity in 1962.

Location: Port Sheldon Township, next to Pigeon Lake along the Lake Michigan shoreline, about 10 miles south of the city of Grand Haven.

Employees: about 300

Safety: The complex 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: About half of the site’s 2,000-acres constitute wildlife habitat and preserve. The site’s Biological Field Station helps students study environmental stewardship and aquatic and terrestrial habitats.

Electric Generating Capacity: 1,450 megawatts, enough to meet the electric needs of a million people.

Fuel: Campbell Units 1 and 3 burn 100 percent western coal.  Campbell Unit 2 burns a blend of eastern and low-sulfur western coal.  Western coal makes its way from Wyoming and Montana, while eastern coal arrives from a variety of states. The complex consumes about 6 million tons of coal per year.

Generating Units: Units 1 and 2 began operating in 1962 and 1967, respectively. Unit 3 began operating in 1980. The units are considered baseload units because they generally operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Stack Height: Campbell units 1 and 2 share a 400-foot stack. The unit 3 stack is 650-feet high.

Economic Impact: Campbell employees and their families contribute significantly to the local economy each year. In addition, Consumers Energy pays more than $13 million per year in property taxes to local government.

How It Works

Diagram of how Consumers Energy generates electricity from coal


The Campbell generating complex consists of three separate coal-fired plants: the 260-megawatt Unit 1, 360-megawatt Unit 2 and the 830-megawatt Unit 3 plant, which includes the largest coal-fueled unit in the company’s fleet.

Altogether, the Campbell complex can generate up to 1,450 megawatts, enough to meet the electric needs of 1 million people.

The complex uses about 6 million tons of coal per year. The three coal-fired units are considered baseload, because they are designed to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

To produce electricity, water is piped through miles of steel tubes within a coal-plant’s boiler.  The burning coal heats the water to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As the steam pressure is raised to about  2,400 pounds per square inch within the main steam line, the steam is routed to a turbine.  Once the pressurized steam hits the turbine, it rotates the turbine blades and shaft attached to the plant’s electric generator.  The generator turns at a constant 3,600 revolutions per minute and synchronizes with the electric transmission system to provide electricity to our customers.

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

Environmental Commitment

The Campbell Complex is certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council and has affiliated environmental enhancement programs or projects on much of the site’s 2,000 acres.

More than 500 types of trees, plants, animals and fish thrive on the Campbell site. Many are found in the woods and vegetation on a 200-foot-high dune west of the generating units that has been included in the Nature Conservancy's Michigan Natural Areas Registry. Among the rare plants found on the dune is the Pitcher's thistle, an endangered species.

Birds of all kinds flock to the site: red-winged blackbirds, killdeer, swallows, ducks, ruffed grouse, blue jays, yellow-shafted flickers, rufus-sided towhees, goldfinches, catbirds and black-capped chickadees. Employees have installed eastern blue bird nesting boxes and Hope College biology students perform related research at the site.  Campbell is also host to a variety of projects performed by Eagle Scouts, as well as an annual site for bird counts performed by the local chapter of the Audubon Society.  The site’s premier environmental stewardship program is the tremendously successful peregrine falcon activities.  Each year, peregrine falcons nest in boxes placed high above the surface, resembling the habitat the birds seek in rocky cliffs.  When chicks hatch in the boxes, employees assist wildlife biologists from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources when identification bands are placed on the legs of the chicks.  The activity is in support of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program to track the migration and health of peregrine falcons, a protected species.  The artificial nest boxes are the only known nesting habitat for the birds in west Michigan.

A key feature is the site’s Biological Field Station, which hosts many school groups and activities designed to develop an appreciation for environmental stewardship and aquatic and terrestrial habitat studies. The station is one of several environmental outreach activities that helped the site earn its Wildlife Habitat Council certification in 1993 and continue the designation until today.  Use of the Biological Field Station is restricted to school groups and has become a part of the curriculum for 5th grade science students in the area.   

The site meets strict state and federal environmental regulations for power plant operations through continually monitoring and analyzing the air, water and soil at Campbell.

Keeping the emissions clear from the plant’s stacks is accomplished by capturing 99 percent of the ash produced from coal combustion.  Tiny particles called fly ash are removed from stack emissions with devices that use static electricity to trap the particles. These particles are blown through pipes by air pressure to an onsite storage facility. Some of the ash is removed from the site and used in concrete manufacturing.  The balance of the ash is contained in a landfill, where it is shaped into mounds and seeded with hardy grass.

Only coal with less than one percent sulfur content is burned at the Campbell complex to help ensure compliance with Michigan's clean-air standards.  Additionally, advanced-technology equipment is used at the site to control other power plant emissions and make Campbell among the most advanced coal-fired power plant sites in the Midwest. 

Cooling water for Campbell Unit 3 is drawn from a submerged intake in deep water offshore in Lake Michigan.  The clean cooling water used in all three units is discharged into a water cooling canal and then pumped underground to Lake Michigan and sent through a diffuser system offshore. The nozzles mix the warm discharge water with Lake Michigan water, minimizing temperature increases in adjacent water.

To protect groundwater quality, the site has its own sanitary treatment system and monitoring wells.


1999: The National Safety Council recognizes employees with the Industry Leader award, presented to facilities with safety performance in the top 5 percent of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s utility group.

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

2001: The Campbell complex was honored as one of the first 54 sites to achieve certification under the Wildlife Habitat Council’s new “Corporate Lands for Learning” program, which recognizes sites' environmental education activities.

2007: The Campbell Complex received a local chamber of commerce award in recognition of its $400 million project to convert Campbell Unit 3 to 100 percent low-sulfur western coal and install the advanced technology selective catalytic reduction (SCR) equipment that reduced its nitrogen oxide emissions by 70 percent. 

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.

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 section on the Consumers Energy web site.


1962: Campbell unit 1 begins operating.

1967: Campbell unit 2 begins operating.

1980: Campbell unit 3 begins operating.

1993: Campbell complex certified by Wildlife Habitat Council as a wildlife habitat site.

2004: Two peregrine falcons nest for the first time on one of the plant’s stacks and raise three offspring.

2007: Consumers Energy completes the installation of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) equipment at Unit 3 to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission and converts the plant to burn 100 percent low-sulfur western coal.