59 businesses show an interest in providing biomass for Charter Street Heating Plant

May 24, 2010

Officials say 59 businesses responded to a “request for information,” to help pinpoint the sources of biomass fuel for a renovated, coal-free Charter Street Heating Plant.

“The message is clear: we have biomass businesses right here in our own state that want to grow,” says Gov. Jim Doyle. “This is an enormous economic opportunity for our state to keep the money we spend on energy in the local economy and create green jobs in the area.”

Troy Runge, director of the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative and chair of a multiagency panel charged with creating a biomass market to serve the plant, says the response is encouraging.

“We’ve been enthusiastic about the range of responses and the diversity in the types of biomass available from potential suppliers,” Runge says. “We were seeking a wide-ranging response, and that’s what we received. Our mission is to foster an emerging industry and identify an environmentally responsible, long-term source of fuel.”

The goal of the inquiry was to understand the potential suppliers of biomass. The results showed:

  • Fifty-nine biomass businesses responded, representing biomass producers, aggregators, equipment processors and businesses;
  • Biomass can supply the power plant with more than 3.4 million tons/year of product.  The plant requirements are estimated at 250,000 tons of biomass per year;
  • A wide range of business sizes ranging from 1,000 to 590,000 tons responded;
  • Of the respondents, 50 percent were from the forest products industry, 25 percent from agriculture and 25 percent from waste materials;
  • The majority of forest product resources would come from northern Wisconsin and agricultural products would come from central and southwestern Wisconsin;
  • Prices ranged from $2-11 per million BTUs; and
  • Approximately half of the aggregators had access to rail or could develop rail access.

The governor has committed to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s isthmus. The $251 million renovation of the Charter Street Heating Plant on campus will transform it into a natural gas- and biomass-burning facility. The cutting-edge facility is expected to go online in 2013.

The results of the request for information will help guide a more specific  “request for proposals,” which is expected to be issued in August.