Alliant Energy awaits grant approval for Wisconsin biomass project

By Bryan Sims
Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL), an Alliant Energy subsidiary based in Madison, Wis., is waiting to see if the U.S. Forest Service's Forest Products Laboratory will award the Southwest Badger Resources Conservation and Development Council with a grant it recently applied for. If the council receives the $12,000 in funding, WPL will provide an additional $12,000 and help the council obtain biomass feedstocks for a proposed boiler at the Nelson Dewey Generating Station in Cassville, Wis., which will provide 300 megawatts of electricity to surrounding communities.

The new boiler would be capable of burning at least 10 percent biomass by weight, along with fossil fuels. It would burn approximately 300 tons (15 to 20 truckloads) of biomass each day with the majority of it coming from within 30 to 50 miles of the plant. When the funds would be distributed was undisclosed at press time,, according to Alliant.

"We are excited about the potential that biomass possesses as a major fuel source in Wisconsin," said Bill Johnson, manager of biofuels development for Alliant Energy. "The work that the Southwest Badger [Resources Conservation and Development Council] has proposed comes at a critical time as we work to help jump-start biofuels in the state." Johnson, who joined Alliant in June, works with area farmers and foresters to show the benefits of becoming a biomass supplier, while providing the company with a predictable and plentiful supply of organic materials.

Since 2000, Alliant Energy has been conducting test burns of switchgrass at its Chariton Valley Generating Station in Ottumwa, Iowa. More than 6,000 tons of switchgrass have been processed, generating enough energy to power 1,000 homes in various tests, the most recent of which concluded in May 2006.