Construction could start in late summer or early fall of 2009.

The $5 million would come from TCL&P’s funds, but the $45 million needed to purchase and install wind turbines could require bonds or participation with other utilities in the Michigan Public Power Agency (MPPA).

Another $1 million could be spent after July 2009 to explore biomass options and possibly purchase land for one plant. The remaining $49 million could come from bonds or cost-sharing with MPPA members.

TCL&P expects to spend $7 million to bury power lines, primarily those along Bay Street, parallel to Grandview Parkway.

If it’s going to be any kind of significant rate increase, we would not do these projects, TCL&P Executive Director Ed Rice said. Our main goal is to keep the rates down, and whatever we have to do … we’ll do, particularly during these economic times.

TCL&P board members approved their capital improvements plan this week, and the Traverse city commission will consider sending the document to the planning commission for a public hearing on March 2, 2009. The plan needs city commission approval.

TCL&P needs to be more self-sufficient and take on generation projects, City Commissioner Jim Carruthers said.

I’m mostly impressed that we’re not really focusing on any new coal-fired generation for the future, Carruthers said. As responsible humans, we need to produce our own power.

The TCL&P board has discussed underground projects for years, said chairwoman Linda Johnson.

In years past they’ve said yes, they’re going to underground and somehow it never gets done, Johnson said. If we’re serious about it, and I know that this board is serious about it, we wanted to put enough money aside so we could do a substantial portion.

More than $4 million could be used for a new distribution substation in the vicinity of LaFranier, Hammond and South Airport roads, Rice said.

Light & Power hasn’t really built a new general distribution substation in almost 25 years, Rice said. So the existing system is becoming loaded almost to the point that it’s difficult to operate.