Panel seeks suppliers for new Charter Street Heating Plant

Feb. 15, 2010

Wide-ranging efforts to nurture a Wisconsin biomass market supplying fuel to the soon-to-be-renovated Charter Street Heating Plant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are under way, as officials begin identifying potential suppliers for the cutting-edge facility.

State and UW-Madison officials are asking interested Wisconsin farmers, businesses and landowners to respond to a simple "request for information" that will help pinpoint likely suppliers of the 250,000 tons of biomass that the plant will consume each year.

"We want to build reliable partnerships, help foster an emerging industry and meet the environmental goals of powering a cleaner, coal-free facility," says Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative, a UW-Madison-based coalition that helps Wisconsin create, commercialize and promote bioenergy solutions.

Runge, who chairs a multiagency panel charged with creating a biomass market to serve the plant, says the request was designed to be simple to encourage broad participation. It will be followed in coming months by a request for more detailed information and proposals from potential biomass fuel suppliers and aggregators.

"We want to cast the broadest possible net to eventually develop a network of suppliers who are capable of providing long-term, sustainable and environmentally responsible fuel supplies," says Runge.

The request seeks information on the type of fuel being offered, location, pricing, capacity, storage and transportation. It can be found at http://www.wbi.wisc.edu/charter-street-biomass-heating-plant/.

"We are trying to understand the market from top to bottom and make sure that we haven't left any possible suppliers out of the process," Runge says. "We're considering a range of sources, from rural and urban forest products to corn stover to grasses and construction waste."

Runge says that the panel hopes to reach both biomass producers and aggregators, those who collect the fuel from various sources.

Gov. Jim Doyle has committed to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison's isthmus. The $251 million renovation of the campus's Charter Street Heating plant will transform it into a natural gas- and biomass-burning plant.

A contractor will be chosen this year to build a biomass boiler, which should go online in 2013 — about two years after construction starts. In the meantime, a pair of natural gas boilers will be built at the Charter Street facility to stand in when the coal plant is decommissioned.

For more information about the Charter Street project, visit http://www.news.wisc.edu/17593