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Updated December 15, 2009, 10:01 pm

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J.R. Whiting Generating Complex

7 Coal Plants Retire

As part of our continued effort to offer sustainable energy to Michigan, we retired our seven oldest coal plants at Cobb, Weadock and Whiting in April 2016. Read More.

J.R. Whiting Generating Complex“While making electricity is our bread and butter, we also spend a lot of energy on preserving our environment."

“Besides producing enough power to serve about 230,000 people, we also maintain a wildflower meadow on our 875-acre site and are very active in helping protect the American lotus blossom — the state symbol for clean water in Michigan."
“While it can be a challenge to run the oldest plant in our company’s generation fleet, it’s also very rewarding to see everyone dedicated to achieving the same results — working safely to produce reliable electricity at a fair price.”

— Whiting 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

Whiting is located on an 875-acre site along the Lake Erie shoreline in Erie, Mich. One of the smallest coal-fired plants in the company’s fleet, it began producing electricity in 1952. The plant is named for Justin Rice Whiting, a former president from 1941-51 and board chairman of Consumers Energy from 1940-41 and 1951-56.

Location: On the Lake Erie shoreline of southeastern Michigan, about 10 miles south of Monroe, Michigan.

Employees: 113

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 875-acre site includes two miles of Lake Erie lakefront and proliferates with wildlife.

Electric Generating Capacity: 328 megawatts, enough to power a community of 230,000 people.

Fuel: All three units burn a blend of eastern and low-sulfur western coal. The eastern coal is delivered to the plant from West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, while the western coal makes its way from Wyoming and Montana. The plant uses about 1.4 million tons of coal per year, delivered by rail car.

Generating Units: Units 1 and 2 began operating in 1952. Unit 3 began operating in 1953.  These baseload units generally operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Stack Height: Each of the three stacks is 300 feet high.

Economic Impact: Whiting employees and their families contribute significantly to the local economy each year. In addition, Consumers Energy pays about $2.6 million per year in property taxes to local government.

How It Works

Diagram of how Consumers Energy generates electricity from coal


With three coal-fired units (two 102 megawatts and one 124 megawatts), Whiting is considered a baseload plant, because the units are designed to run 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The plant can generate up to 328 megawatts — enough electricity to serve a community of 230,000 people.

To produce electricity, the plant uses about 1.4 million tons of coal per year, delivered by rail. The coal is carried into the plant on long conveyor belts, ground into a fine powder, mixed with air and ignited. 

Meanwhile, water is pumped through steel tubes while the burning fuel heats it to more than 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. As water boils to steam, the pressure turns the fan blades of turbines at 3,600 revolutions per minute. The turbines are connected to generators, causing them to spin and produce electricity.

On an average day, 5.5 million gallons of water are heated, converted to steam and then cooled back to a liquid before being returned to the boiler. 200 million gallons of lake water are circulated each day through the condenser to cool the steam to water.  In fact, almost 98 percent of the water drawn in each day at generating plants across the company is not mixed with any other liquid or solid. The nearly 2 percent of water that does contact other materials is treated with advanced technology.

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

Environmental Commitment

For nearly 60 years, employees have worked to protect and preserve the environment including the wildlife, waterfowl and shorebirds near the plant.

Whiting became the first power plant in the state to win the Clean Corporate Citizen (C3) designation from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in 1998 and has earned the award for 11 consecutive years.

In addition to significant environmental management systems and pollution-prevention practices, employees continually monitor and analyze the air and water to ensure the plant complies with state and federal requirements.

Employees maintain a wildflower meadow and American lotus pond as part of the site’s wildlife habitat programs, which were first certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council in 1991.

Employees have worked closely with the Monroe County Lotus Garden Club to propagate, transplant and protect the American lotus, which was discovered within the property’s marshes and wetlands in 1991. The Lotus Garden Club is the only group authorized by the state of Michigan to harvest lotus seeds, and this continues each year at Whiting.

Participating in events such as the Lake Erie shoreline cleanup and annual Lotus Garden Club tour, employees and their families are also very active with local environmental groups and cleanup activities on the 875-acre site.

Environmental Partnerships

  • Erie Area Birding Association
  • Lotus Garden Club of Monroe
  • Wildlife Habitat Council
  • Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
  • Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership (MBP3)
  • Clean Corporate Citizen (C3)
  • Neighborhood Environmental Partners (NEP)


1991-2014: Wildlife Habitat Council.   Assure careful and responsible stewardship of the lands and natural resources by maintaining wildflower meadow and lotus pond, and active with environmental groups and cleanup activities.

1998-2009:  The MDEQ MDNRE recognizes efforts in voluntary pollution prevention efforts with the Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership.

1998-2009:  Clean Corporate Citizen (C3).  This Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE) designation recognizes companies in their efforts in environmental management systems, pollution prevention practices and strong environmental compliance records.

2004-2009:  Neighborhood Environmental Partner.   Achieved Gold Level Award since 2005 for maintaining C3 and NEP for several consecutive years.   The J. R. Whiting Plant has been awarded for excellent work in undertaking the American Lotus Beds Project and organization of an annual Lake Erie Shoreline Clean-Up during National Shoreline Clean-up Week.  Volunteers include the Erie Shores Birding Association, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and Monroe County 4-H Club.

2000: The National Safety Council recognizes 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.

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.


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

1998: First Michigan power plant to earn a Clean Corporate Citizen (C3) designation from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE).

1999: First certified in the Michigan Business Pollution Prevention Partnership by the MDNRE for voluntary pollution prevention efforts.

March 2002: Unit 2 sets company record of 346 consecutive generating days. The unit’s previous record was set May 20, 1960.

July 2002: Golden anniversary — Serving Michigan for 50 Years.

2004: Clean Corporate Citizen (C3) Longevity Award, having earned the C3  Award for seven consecutive years.

2004: JR Whiting Plant was one of six facilities in the state to receive the 1st ever Neighborhood Environmental Partners Gold Award from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  The MDNRE award recognizes local projects at C3 sites that benefit the environment.

2004: The plant produces an all-time record amount of electricity during 2004, its 52nd year of operation. The plant generates 2,459,423 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity during the year, surpassing the previous record of 2,264,479 MWh set in 2002 by more than 8 percent.

2008:   The Lady of the Lake 49 acres of property on the JR Whiting Plant site which is owned by Consumers Energy was added to the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge.  This conveyance will ensure continued preservation of this unique coastal wetland for current and future generations.

2008:  Unit 3 sets a company record of 310 consecutive generating days.  The unit’s previous record of 300 consecutive generating days was set June 12, 1960.