L’Anse, White Pine power plants for sale

L’ANSE – The L’Anse Warden Electric Company, the White Pine Electric Power plant and the White Pine Copper Refinery are up for sale, according to TRAXYS Power Group CEO Steve Walsh, who oversees those and other U.P. holdings for the TRAXYS corporation.

“We’ve been actively marketing those properties for four or five months,” Walsh said Friday. He said several groups have expressed interest, and while he wasn’t willing to name most, he did say the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community had looked into buying the L’Anse Warden plant.

In general, “interest has been strong, for all the assets,” he said.

TRAXYS, which specializes in finance and logistics for the mining and energy industries, is itself in the process of being bought by the Carlyle Group, a global alternative asset management firm headquartered in Washington, D.C. But according to a source close to the transaction who asked not to be named, the Power Group properties will not be part of the Carlyle Group purchase.

“The sale to Carlyle has nothing to do with the power assets here,” agreed Walsh, who said he wasn’t sure how the operations would run after the sale, but that he didn’t expect the power plants to close.

Potential buyers would also be unlikely to close the doors, he added.

“If you want to buy them and shut them down, that doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.

Donald Shalifoe, the Ogimaa – or council president – of the KBIC, said the tribe is not currently interested in buying the L’Anse Warden plant, though he didn’t rule out another look in the future.

“We were just kind of feeling it out,” he said. “The council was kind of hesitant, we’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now,” he added, referring to the tribe’s efforts to buy or build a new Baraga casino.

Walsh said the finalizing of the corporate purchase depends on regulatory approval in several countries, and chose not to comment on when it would be final. The source with knowledge of that transaction said she expected the deal to close in the third quarter of the business year – July, August or September.

Walsh said L’Anse Warden is a 20 megawatt biofuel plant that burns mainly wood chips, ground tires and railroad ties. Beyond its income from power generated, the plant also sells green energy credits to DTE energy, with four years remaining on that 20-year contract.

According the TRAXYS Power Group website, the White Pine plant is a coal-fired 40 megawatt plant. Walsh said the Power Group also includes U.P. Power Marketing, which sells electricity to both homes and other companies, the non-operating White Pine Copper Refinery, and 27 acres of vacant land.