Big cities. Small towns. Densely populated neighborhoods. Rural areas with wildlife, farms and forests. Michigan has them all, which means we need to provide reliable energy across a wide range of places.

Investing in our grid in Northern Michigan includes several projects and communities not too far from I-75. When the $33.6 million in projects are complete, we will be several steps closer to our goals of no storm causing more than 100,000 outages and no outage lasting more than 24 hours.

Three major project upgrades are at the forefront of this investment:

  • Replacing the Houghton Heights Substation
  • Replacing the Higgins Substation
  • Major upgrades to the Beaver Creek Substation.

“These project upgrades are critical to Northern Michigan’s future when it comes to commercial, residential and industrial growth,” said Rich Castle, community affairs manager in Northern Michigan, who works closely with the communities these projects serve. “These projects provide an opportunity to upgrade aging infrastructure and equipment in Northern Michigan while enhancing safety and reliability in the delivery of energy to our customers.”

Overhaul at Houghton Heights

At Houghton Heights, we are investing $18 million to replace the substation that will become the Houghton Lakes Substation. It will be located at the crossroads of Old US Highway 27 and Knapp Road and it will provide power to 6,140 customers. The existing substation will be removed once the new one is fully operational.

This project will require installation of a new high voltage distribution line. Construction of this HVD line is scheduled to begin in November 2024 and expected to be fully operational in February 2026.

We will be retiring the Markey Line, which is an existing 46kV line on the northwest side of Houghton Lake in a swamp. Because of its location, this portion of the line can’t be rebuilt and creates many other challenges:

  • Some of the poles on the Markey Line are difficult to inspect and pose a significant threat to the reliability of the line.
  • The Markey Line and its three existing substations of 13,000 customers have had multiple outages due to the line’s current location and condition.
  • When outages do occur, they take much longer to fix.

“As with all of our projects, we remain committed to communicating clearly about these plans with landowners,” Castle said. “Our field representatives are reaching out directly to each landowner to discuss easement rights and address any concerns around construction.”

Protecting the planet is one of our top priorities, Castle added.

“While designing the proposed route of the new HVD line, careful attention was made to minimize the project’s environmental impact upon wetlands while supporting developed areas in the Houghton Lake area,” he said.

Higgins Substation

We also invested $13 million in overhauling the Higgins Substation and replacing it with a rebuilt substation with new equipment.

The Higgins Substation serves over 32,000 customers.

The existing equipment in the Higgins Substation was reaching end of life and the new equipment will help with future reliability efforts.

“This new substation is already up and running, and the community feedback before, during and after construction has been overwhelmingly positive,” Castle said. “We look forward to helping our customers get the reliable service they depend on us for each and every day.”

Beaver Creek Substation

The Beaver Creek Substation, located in Grayling, serves about 10,000 customers.

We recently invested $2.6 million in upgrades to the substation, including replacing an aging transformer.

“The Beaver Creek project is critical to the area since it focuses more on industrial partners,” said Castle. “We have stressed to residents and businesses the importance of upgrading our system to fulfill their future needs when it comes to reliable service.”

One of the businesses the substation serves is ADJ Forest Products, a full-service sawmill in Grayling with about 50 employees.

Tim Neff, general manager of ADJ Forest Products, said he appreciated the effort by Consumers Energy to keep him informed during the upgrades.

“We had power the whole time and zero issues,” he said. “Looking forward, anything that can be done to improve reliability and consistency of supply will always be welcomed by us. They are both critical components to our business now and in the future.”