DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (2024)

Trenton — It only took an instant for the nine-story building once DTE Energy's Trenton Channel Power Plant boiler house to collapse into a giant mound of rubble.

A thunderous explosion of firecrackers on steroids, a wave of flames, and an enormous grayish-black cloud and the 180-foot-tall structure was no longer standing on the Detroit River's banks Friday morning.

"It was absolutely amazing," said Grosse Ile Township resident Joe Diaz, 48, who watched the building fall from across the river at the Water's Edge Marina near West River Road and Bellevue Road.

DTE Energy demolished the boiler house at 6 a.m. as part of its effort to build the region's largest battery storage facility and shift toward clean energy.

DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (1)

The demolition comes about three months after the company took down the shuttered 102-year-old Trenton plant's two brick smokestacks.

Diaz, a carpenter, said he came to the same place to see today's demolition. "I think this was much more intense," he said.

DTE Energy officials said the collapse unfolded smoothly.

"I think it went fantastic, just as we had planned," said Renee Tomina, the company's senior vice president of project management organization. "Once the explosives were lit, the building collapsed upon itself and we were able to safely and successfully bring the boiler house down. As you saw, the smoke and dust dissipated over the water exactly as we expected."

Tomina gave the media a short briefing across the river from the power plant at the Water's Edge Marina. She laid out some of the demolition's details.

For instance, she said the company and its contractors worked for about 18 months planning the demolition. DTE also worked with local police and fire departments to make sure the process was done safely, she said.

For another, contractors used two kinds of explosives — suspension charges and dynamite — to bring the building down, Tomina said. "All in all, we had over 1,000 pounds of explosives," the DTE executive said.

DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (2)

She said the turbine house still standing next to where the boiler house once was is set to be demolished in the next few weeks.

"We're going to use mechanical equipment, excavators and other heavy equipment to bring that building down," Tormina said. "That's because of the size of the building and we have already taken much of it apart."

Before zero hour on Friday, there was a steady spray of water directed at the boiler house to minimize dust and smoke once it collapsed. Spectators waited to watch the show at the marina or across West River Road on the property of the Water's Edge Golf Club. Some brought lawn chairs while others came on bikes. Some brought their spouses and children.

Brian Kostielney, 48, was among them. He and his two sons, Theodore, 8, and Paul, 6, claimed a spot on the lawn of the golf club.

"I couldn't bring them for the smokestacks because they had school that morning," he said before the building collapsed.

Theodore said he has never seen a building being demolished before.

"What do you think it's going to be like? Loud?" his dad asked him. The boy nodded.

DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (3)

Kostielney said he's looking forward to having something new on the waterfront facing the island he calls home.

"I know they're going to turn it into a new battery thing," he said. "I think it'll be better than being an eyesore."

Grosse Ile resident Michael O'Neill, 43, and his 12-year-old daughter, Alexis, were also on hand to watch the boiler house's leveling. He said he also brought his son and his daughter's friend to see it.

"It's a small town and this is the biggest thing to happen in it for a while," the business owner said before the explosions toppled the building. "I didn't get to see the smokestacks come down but at least I can see this one."

Alexis said she was looking forward to seeing it.

Like Kostielney, O'Neill said he thinks demolishing the shuttered old plant and putting up a new building will improve the view of Trenton's waterfront from the island. "(The Trenton plant) is kind of an eyesore right now."

DTE's Tomina said she wasn't surprised a lot of people turned out to watch the boiler house's demolition Friday.

"This power plant has been in this community here for 100 years and it served the community very well," she said. "I know it's been a part of the fabric and fiber of the community. It's certainly a part of the DTE culture and history. It's a big day for us today."

Until they were demolished in March, the Trenton Channel site hosted a pair of 600-foot-tall "candy cane" red-and-white striped smokestacks that were a landmark for the Downriver community. DTE burned coal for generating electricity at the site from 1924 until 2022.

DTE Energy plans to build a large-scale battery storage facility at the site of the former Trenton Channel Power Plant, a coal-burning power plant that was retired in 2022 after nearly a century of generating electricity Downriver.

The Trenton Channel Energy Center will be able to store 220 megawatts of electricity, enough juice to power 40,000 homes, according to the utility.

DTE expects the project to be the biggest standalone battery energy storage project in the Great Lakes region when it's completed in 2026.

Tormina said the project is still in the planning stages and construction is expected to begin next year.

"We're very excited to revitalize this location," she said.

Battery storage allows utilities to squirrel away extra renewable electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels on windy, sunny days. Then, the grid can draw energy from those batteries when energy demands outstrip the wind and sun's supplies.

The cost of the near 20-acre Trenton battery storage facility is approaching $500 million, DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia said this month.

The company has received approximately $140 million in tax incentives through the Inflation Reduction Act's infrastructure investment provisions.

DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (4)

"It was neat," Scott Rhind, 68, of Grosse Ile, said after Friday's demolition as he walked back to his pickup truck with his wife, Kathleen, and a folded-up lawn chair in his hand. He said he planned to come back to the golf club for a 7:40 a.m. tee time.

He said it's the fourth large building demolition he's seen, including the Hudson Building in Detroit, an 8-story building in Southfield, and then the Trenton Channel Power Plant in March.

"This was neat because of the daylight, the sound effect," he said. "The tree my wife and I were sitting under was some kind of black mulberry and it dropped all of the seeds on us. We weren't expecting that: the shockwave of it."

cramirez@detroitnews.com

DTE demolishes Trenton plant's boiler house (2024)
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