Marquette Energy center in focus

Engine tester OK’d

Tom Carpenter, executive director, Marquette Board of Light and Power

MARQUETTE — Marquette Board of Light and Power board members on Tuesday unanimously approved renting a 25-megawatt load bank from Aggreko LLC to properly test and tune engines at the Marquette Energy Center, as well as discussed noise and vibrations believed to be coming from the facility along Wright Street. BLP board member Ed Angeli was excused from the meeting.

The BLP recently received a proposal from Aggreko to test the MEC generators for $154,133. Additional costs that would include shipping and onsite support could range from $60,000 to $100,000. The project was bid out to two other companies but their prices were not as competitive, BLP documents state.

Brett Kyllonen, manager of electrical engineering services, said six months ago BLP staff discovered they needed a load bank to properly test and tune the MEC engines.

“As soon as we get the approval we’ll start scheduling when we can get the load banks here — hopefully within the next couple months,” he said. “We’ll do the testing at night and we’ll run the MEC units during the day to produce power and hopefully it takes less than a month.”

MEC generators to date have only been tested and tuned while being connected to the grid, which is overseen by the Midcontinent Independent System Operator. By performing the tests on MEC generators using a load bank, staff can simulate being in an “island” condition, which would be comparable to Marquette being isolated from the grid.

Tom Tourville, chairman, Marquette Board of Light and Power

David Puskala, vice chairman of the BLP board, asked why the importance of tuning and testing the engines “was missed” in the contract since it’s a key aspect of keeping engines running the way they should be.

“In the contract it says that Marquette Board of Light and Power is responsible to provide all the loading necessary (but) they don’t go into enough detail,” said Tom Carpenter, executive director of the BLP.

Carpenter said he’s been in touch with Wartsila, the Finnish manufacturing company that provided the engines, and Sargent & Lundy, a Chicago-based construction engineering company that designed the facility, to see if they can help with covering the costs.

Shortly after operations began at the MEC last year, around 20 Marquette Township residents submitted written complaints about sounds and vibrations believed to be coming from the facility.

BLP officials have been working to review data with Wartsila, Sargent & Lundy and Shiner & Associates, a Chicago-based acoustical engineering firm.

Huron Street resident Thomas Driscoll said the noise sounds like a motorcycle is in his yard and that his 86-year-old father, who lives a few houses away from him, has significant hearing loss and is still disturbed by the noise and vibration.

“It’s bad enough that you have to feel and hear the constant grumbling, but on top of that is this high-pitched squealing. The noise and vibration cuts right through you,” he said. “What is equally frustrating is the thought that a small group of people made the decision thinking it was OK to place this facility directly across the street from a residential neighborhood and that none of us would be affected.

“I’ve read statements coming from this board — ‘There’s only a few people that are affected.’ That’s subjective. How many is a few? Two? Three? A dozen? Two dozen? ‘Numerous’ would have been a more correct statement. It’s real, it’s not subjective. The noise is real. I can only hope this board takes the opportunity to make the right decisions to correct this problem.”

BLP Chairman Tom Tourville thanked Driscoll for his comments and said the utility is trying its best to be good neighbors and make sure that when they spend the money that the fix is effective and long-term.

“Yes it takes longer and it’s more aggravating when it’s not done right away — but I know firsthand, … being involved with the director on a regular basis, that it’s something staff has been pursuing and working on,” he said.

After conducting studies on the facility, Shiner & Associates determined that low-frequency noise from the Wartsila reciprocating engines is re-radiating through the building envelope and said acoustic mitigation is required to reduce the low-frequency source inside the building.

INNOVA Global, an international emissions and noise management company, recently proposed to conduct a sound measurement survey at noise-sensitive receptors near the MEC. The survey is also intended to confirm findings made by Shiner & Associates.

Measurements will be conducted near two of the residential locations identified in the Shiner report. The unattended sound meters will continuously log sound levels in one-minute intervals, for a duration of up to 24 hours, to include an overnight period from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

After the report has been reviewed by Sargent & Lundy, INNOVA will arrange a conference call to discuss the proposed mitigation measures. Once the mitigation measures are agreed on, INNOVA will provide firm pricing for the detailed design, supply and installation of the necessary components.

The site visit could occur within one week of receiving a purchase order and a draft noise impact assessment report would be provided two weeks of completing the site survey. The scope of work is estimated to cost around $18,400. Pricing includes all engineering hours, equipment usage, and expenses necessary to complete the above-mentioned work.