Great Lakes Energy Power Plant

In 1939 a power plant and distribution lines were built on the island by Top O'Michigan Electric Cooperative.  Huge generators provided the islanders with power and the plant was operated by Jewell Gillespie and sons for nearly fifty years.  In the early part of the 1970's, an underwater cable was laid across the bottom of Lake Michigan and for the first time, the island received power from the mainland while the local power plant was kept as an emergency back-up.  This system worked well until 1983, when a barge anchor dragging on the bottom of the Lake hooked into the cable and knocked it out of service.  At that time the island power plant again became the lone source of power to the islanders who had come to depend on electricity for so many things.  In 1984, a second cable was laid underwater across Lake Michigan to replace the original one but unfortunately, it failed in February of 1999 and Great Lakes Energy and the power supplier, Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative again had to start up the emergency generators on the island and power was restored the same day that the cable failed.  The generators in the power plant were old and were wearing out causing black-outs more and more often so on March 7, 1999 the Coast Guard icebreaker cleared a path for the Emerald Isle to pick up another emergency generator in Charlevoix and return to the island.  With more and more folks coming to Beaver Island, the demand for electricity was growing tremendously and something had to be done.

On April 5, 1999, Great Lakes Energy held a public meeting and presented the islanders with some options for a long-term solution to the power needs.  A simple vote of the choices had the islanders opting for a $4.3 million plan that included new underwater cables, a new power plant and repairs to the existing cable to the mainland.  Costs would be paid in part by increasing the electric bills of the islanders and increasing the costs of hook up fees for new users.  By the end of the month, the failed cable was repaired and the island was back on mainland power.   

In early June of 1999, both the St. James Township Board and the Peaine Township Boards approved resolutions supporting the $4.3 million power supply improvement project that had been discussed in early April of that same year and on August 18th three new cables were laid across the bottom of Lake Michigan from Sturgeon Bay Point, north of Cross Village in Emmet County to the harbor on Beaver Island.  It took the rest of the year to rebuild about five miles of line from the Cross Village substation to the end of the Sturgeon Bay Drive.  On September 6, 1999 the repaired cable again suffered a failure and the brand-new cables were activated to restore power to the island.

On September 27, 2000 the new, three megawatt power plant was made available for standby.  It's huge generators can easily meet the island's summer peak loads.  In fact, the plant has the ability to send power back to the mainland when they are having peak load periods.

Great Lakes Energy also provides propane service, long distance telephone service for 6.5 cents per minute, surge protection, a VISA card that offers rebates, controlled electric heating and electric water heating discount programs.

Beginning on September 1, 2002, Great Lakes Energy will also provide the island with Internet service.  They will offer dial-up, wireless and satellite service to the island for the same rate that Internet customers on the mainland pay.  Customers can sign up and cancel at anytime, so if they only want to enroll for the summer they can.  If you'd like to enroll call 888-485-2537, ext. 1755.  Both monthly and annual plans are available. 

For more information about this company, please visit  Great Lakes Energy.

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