THETFORD TWP.  (AP) – Consumers Energy plans to invest about $750 million to build a 700 megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Genesee County, the utility announced Friday.

The project in Thetford Township is expected to create 600 construction jobs and about 30 operating jobs, the subsidiary of Jackson-based CMS Energy Corp. said. Development of a new natural gas power plant is consistent with Consumers Energy’s plan to meet the needs of its customers over the next 20 years, said John Russell, the utility’s president and chief executive.

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At 700 megawatts, the plant would be able to serve a community of about 445,000 people.

“This proposed plant will use state-of-the-art technology to help meet the future needs of our 1.8 million electric customers in an environmentally responsible manner,” Russell said. “Vast new supplies of natural gas have reduced prices and they are expected to stay low for the long term.

“We selected natural gas as the fuel source for this new power plant because we project it will be the most economical way to serve our customers in the future and continue to bring them value.”

Consumers Energy said it planned to file an air permit application with the state Department of Environmental Quality. The project also requires financing and a certificate of necessity from the Michigan Public Service Commission.

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The utility owns the 272-acre site about 20 miles northeast of Flint. Nine smaller natural-gas fired combustion turbine units already are on the land.

Construction would begin in 2015 with service starting two years later.

“We’re making substantial investments to serve customers and improve the environment while aggressively managing our costs,” Russell said. “Even with this new power plant investment, we plan to hold our average base rate increases at or below the rate of inflation for the next five years.”

Consumers Energy provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million people in the state’s Lower Peninsula.

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