Ludington Pumped Storage
“Besides producing enough power to serve about 1.4 million people, our Wildlife Habitat Council certified programs benefit butterflies, bluebirds and wood ducks."
“We’re working safely to produce reliable and economical energy at a moment’s notice.”
— Ludington Pumped Storage Employees
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 Ludington Pumped Storage Plant sits on a 1,000-acre site along the Lake Michigan shoreline. The plant was built between 1969-73 and is jointly owned by Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison, and operated by Consumers Energy.
The plant contributes directly to local governments about $11 million in annual property taxes. Revenue from plant operations, maintenance and overhauls also contribute significant sums to the local economy. Local residents still refer to the plant as “The Project”.
Location: On the Lake Michigan shoreline, 4 miles south of the city of Ludington. The site provides public access to two scenic overlooks during daylight hours from Memorial Day until Labor Day.
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: 1,000-acre site includes an 842-acre reservoir that can store up to 27 billion gallons of water — the equivalent of 2 million backyard swimming pools.
Electric Generating Capacity: 1,872 megawatts, enough to power a community of 1.4 million people.
Fuel: Lake Michigan water that is pumped uphill during periods of low electric demand and stored in a large reservoir. When demand is high, the water is released and rushes downhill, turning turbines and associated electric generators.
Generating Units: All six units can quickly produce 312 megawatts each during peak demand periods. The plant’s turbines are rated at 433,000 horsepower — more than an aircraft carrier engine.
Penstocks: Each of the six penstocks is about one-fifth of a mile (1,300 feet) long and — at 28 feet across — is large enough for an 18-wheel semi-truck to drive through.
How it Works
One of the world’s biggest electric “batteries”, Ludington can provide energy at a moment’s notice. Its ability lies in its 27-billion gallon reservoir and a set of six turbines that drive electric generators. Those same turbines double as giant water pumps to fill the reservoir with water from Lake Michigan.
At night, when electric demand is low, Ludington’s reversible turbines pump water 363 feet uphill from Lake Michigan. The water is pumped through six large pipes, or “penstocks”, to the 842-acre reservoir. During the day, when electric demand is high, the reservoir releases water to flow downhill through the penstocks. The flowing water turns turbines and generators in the powerhouse to make electricity.
The plant can generate up to 1,872 megawatts — enough electricity to serve a community of 1.4 million residential customers. The output is more than double the capacity of any single unit on Consumers Energy’s system.
Ludington’s relatively simple technology enables the plant to respond quickly to the daily, weekly and seasonal highs and lows of Michigan’s energy demand. The plant also saves customers money by enabling Consumers Energy to avoid the expensive spot market when customer demand exceeds the capacity of the company’s baseload plants. The immense size of Ludington and its six-unit design offers flexibility in balancing customer demand with electric output on a moment’s notice.
Ludington has won several national and company awards for design and safe operation. Contractor and company personnel involved in the design and construction of the plant return periodically to Ludington in a special reunion for the project that many call the highlight of their careers.
To protect Lake Michigan fish during plant operations, each spring workers install a 2 1/2 mile-long barrier net that helps keeps away fish from the plant’s water intake. The net is removed in the fall to prevent winter ice damage.
Employees protect and manage local plant and wildlife habitats. Employees maintain a butterfly garden and care for several bluebird and wood duck nesting boxes as part of Ludington’s certification by the Wildlife Habitat Council.
- Oceana Audubon Club
- Great Lakes Fishery Trust
- Wildlife Habitat Council
- 1973 - Named Outstanding Engineering Achievement of the Year by the American Society of Civil Engineers
- 1987 - Named one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements over Michigan's first 150 years
- 1999 - Named one of Michigan's top 10 civil engineering projects of the 20th century by the Michigan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers
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.
1962: Consumers Power and Detroit Edison form the Michigan Electric Power Coordination Center.
1966: Consumers and Detroit Edison agree to jointly build and own Ludington Pumped Storage.
1969: Construction begins.
1973: All six units begin operating with a capacity to serve 1.4 million people, making Ludington the largest facility of its kind in the world.
1989: Workers install a barrier net to protect fish. The net, now 2.5 miles long, is installed each spring and removed in the fall to prevent ice damage.
1991: First certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council for programs that enhance and protect area wildlife.
1994: Plant co-owners Consumers Energy and Detroit Edison, state and federal officials along with state and national environmental groups sign a landmark agreement to protect fish during operations and create a Great Lakes Fisheries Trust and Scientific Advisory Team.
1996: The Michigan Public Service Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approve the 1994 fish settlement.
1998: Employees and community celebrate 25th anniversary with plant tours.
1999: Named one of Michigan’s top 10 civil engineering projects of the 20th century by the Michigan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
1999: Plant earns recertification from Wildlife Habitat Council.
2001: Four administrators from the Enguri Hydropower Plant in the Russian Republic of Georgia visit the plant as part of a U.S. tour coordinated through the United States Energy Association’s Energy Partnership Program.
2002 - 2011: Plant earns recertification from Wildlife Habitat Council.