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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wisconsin: Saudi Arabia of biomass

From an article by Jim Massey in The Country Today:

RICHLAND CENTER - While low commodity prices are a challenge for farmers, they could provide an opportunity for the biomass industry to grow in Wisconsin, farmers and landowners were told March 6 at a biomass briefing.

Southwest Badger Resource Conservation and Development Council officials shared the results of three biomass studies at the briefing, held to coincide with a quarterly council meeting.

Council Coordinator Steve Bertjens said southern Wisconsin has become a prime target for biomass production and the studies were conducted to determine the economic feasibility of growing and harvesting the material.

Gov. Jim Doyle recently announced that the UW-Madison Charter Street Power Plant would burn 250,000 tons of biomass per year by 2012 and power plants in Cassville and Jo Daviess County, Ill., will use a combined 800,000 tons of biomass per year. Officials said the challenge will be coming up with that much biomass to burn.

Three Southwest Badger RCandD projects - a biomass inventory and analysis project, switchgrass establishment and harvesting demonstrations, and the true costs of harvesting woody biomass in Wisconsin's Driftless Area - are in the works. . . .

Brett Hulsey, president of Better Environmental Solutions, said if all of Wisconsin's biomass reserves were used for energy production it could displace about half of the coal burned in the state.

"We are a biomass Saudi Arabia," Hulsey said. "We could use wood waste, corn stover, prairie grasses and even dairy manure as energy sources."

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