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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

State needs more biofuels for UW power plant

From an Associated Press article by Ryan J. Foley, pubished in The Capital Times:

Uncertainty about the availability and cost of biomass fuels makes Gov. Jim Doyle's $251 million plan to overhaul a University of Wisconsin-Madison power plant somewhat risky, according to a report released Tuesday.

Doyle has proposed converting the coal-fired Charter Street plant, long a major polluter in the area, to run on cleaner-burning biomass fuels such as wood chips and paper pellets. His administration says it would be one of the nation's largest biomass projects and the plan has delighted environmentalists.

A report from consultants hired by the state recommended Tuesday running the plant on a mix of natural gas and biomass and installing a more expensive boiler that can burn any type of biofuel. But the report also warned the state's biomass market must be expanded for the project to be successful.

The report said the state should get its money back over 25 years from building the more expensive boiler as long as enough biomass fuel supplies are developed and they cost less than natural gas over time. . . .

The report said there was "a significant risk" that not enough biomass supply would be available for the boiler when it is expected to begin running.

Wood products would likely be the main source of fuel for the plant in the beginning while others are developed, the report said. Paper pellets are another cost-effective biomass source, but they are currently in short supply. Switchgrass and agricultural waste currently cost more than natural gas.

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