2010 March 15: WI Wausau area: We Energies files application for biomass plant RAWSEP View: quote "Particulate Pollution would rise"
By Thomas Content of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: March 15, 2010 |(0) Comments
Seeking to expand its renewable power portfolio beyond wind farms, We Energies on Monday filed an application with state regulators to build a $255 million biomass power plant near Wausau.
The project would supply steam to Domtar Corp.’s paper mill in Rothschild and create up to 150 jobs, the utility said in its application to the state Public Service Commission.
The 50-megawatt power plant would generate enough power to supply 40,000 typical homes, We Energies said.
We Energies, which announced the project last fall, said it would like the Public Service Commission to rule on the project by year-end to help it stay on a timeline aimed at the project qualifying for a 30% federal tax credit.
Qualifying for the tax credit would enable the project’s cost for the utility and We Energies ratepayers be cheaper, said Brian Manthey, utility spokesman. If the tax credit is available, We Energies projects the project would raise customers’ rates by 1% to 1.25%, he said.
It’s unclear what the actual dollar impact of the project would be for ratepayers, but at today’s rates it would be roughly $1 a month for the typical residential customer.
Construction would start next year and last for about 30 months. The project is expected to create about 400 temporary construction jobs in addition to jobs at the power plant and in the logging and forestry sector.
Because of new coal plants coming on line in Oak Creek and the economy, We Energies has more power than it needs to supply its customers.
But the project is needed to help the utility comply with the state’s renewable energy mandate, which the state enacted in 2006. Under that law, 10% of Wisconsin’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015.
The Doyle administration is pushing a bill in the Legislature this year to expand that requirement to 25% of the state’s electricity by 2025.
Wisconsin Industrial Energy Group executive director Todd Stuart said his group will take a close look at the project.
"We have no immediate, or even short term, need for more generation," he said. "Wisconsin is building a lot of unnecessary generation at a premium cost. We will be generation rich, yes. But cash poor."
Charlie Higley, executive director of the Wisconsin Citizens’ Utility Board, said his group will look at the project’s cost, feasibility and whether there is enough waste wood available to meet the plant’s needs.
Using wood waste
We Energies and Domtar will work with loggers to obtain waste wood – logging residues, as well as wood waste from sawmills – and are confident that there is sufficient waste wood within a 75-mile radius of the Domtar paper mill.
We Energies considers its plan a cost-effective way to meet the renewable power mandate, Manthey said, in part because "we’re able to build on an industrial site and take advantage of the supply chain that’s already in place for the paper mill."
The project has generated opposition from "a small group of residents" concerned about air emissions and increased truck traffic from the plant.
In its filing, We Energies says boiler emissions of nitrogen oxide will fall sharply from the project and emissions of carbon monoxide will fall, because once the project is built, Domtar will stop firing up its boilers that run on natural gas as well as biomass.
However, the amount of pollution from two other pollutants – sulfur dioxide and particulates – would rise if the project were approved.
The project also would entail much more truck traffic to the site – with truck traffic increasing from 35 to 110 trucks a day to deliver wood feedstock to the plant.