Release Date: October 28, 2010

Wood waste generates electricity

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Efforts to add more renewable energy in Wisconsin from burning wood waste moved ahead Monday with the completion of one biomass power plant and the start of construction on another.

A 40-megawatt biomass power plant has opened in southwestern Wisconsin.

The power plant, the E.J. Stoneman Station in Cassville, is producing electricity by burning wood waste including residue from forestry and tree trimming work as well as railroad ties, demolition waste and sawdust.

Ann Arbor, Mich.-based DTE Energy Service Inc. owns and operates the plant and sells the power to Dairyland Power Cooperative of La Crosse.

"DTE Energy Services is proud to be able to give the Stoneman plant new life as a generator of renewable energy," David Ruud, president of DTE Energy Services, said in a statement. "We also are pleased that the plant will provide employment for 32 members of the Cassville community and support the local economy through our relationships with fuel suppliers and other local businesses."

Dairyland built the former coal-fired power plant in 1951 and operated it for more than 40 years.

"We are pleased to see this major renewable energy resource come online for our cooperative membership," said Dale Pohlman, Dairyland vice president of strategic planning. "Our 'green' partnership with DTE Energy Services will supply the energy needs to power 28,000 homes across our system by utilizing a natural resource -- wood waste -- as fuel."

Meanwhile, construction has started on a project to convert the University of Wisconsin-Madison heating plant to burn natural gas and biomass instead of coal.

The project is expected to create a total of 300 jobs for construction workers at the peak of construction activity, said Bob DeKoch, president of Boldt Co. in Appleton. Boldt and the British firm AMEC were selected this summer as the engineering, procurement and construction contractor on the $251 million project.

"It's a big project. It's a big economic development project," DeKoch said in an interview after a ceremony Monday with Gov. Jim Doyle and UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin.

Site work on the project has already begun, including demolition work and foundation work, DeKoch said. The project was launched by the state and the university after the Sierra Club sued over air pollution from the coal plant. Responding to the litigation, Doyle announced plans in 2008 to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants in Madison.

The project, which has faced several hurdles, is a big investment for the state -- taking up nearly one-fifth of the state's 2009-'11 capital budget.

The Charter Street Heating Plant currently burns 108,000 tons of coal each year providing steam and heating for the campus buildings. Once improvements are complete, the upgrades will reduce emissions and burn up to 250,000 tons of biomass fuel a year.

"The Charter Street plant will turn a waste stream into clean energy, it will keep energy dollars in our communities, and it will help clean our air and water," Doyle said in a statement.

For Boldt, this is the latest in a series of jobs that involve generating energy from burning wood. The company's roots in that sector go back decades with its involvement with the pulp and paper industry, DeKoch said. More recently, the firm has built a biomass plant in Minnesota and was hired by We Energies and Domtar for their $255 million biomass plant near Rothschild, if that plant is approved by state regulators.