Premier Cooperative to study biomass pelletization

By Ryan C. Christiansen
Web exclusive posted Oct. 3, 2008 at 10:00 a.m. CST

Premier Cooperative, a 3,000-member agricultural cooperative in Mount Horeb, Wis., has been awarded a $25,000 Agriculture Development and Diversity grant from the state of Wisconsin to evaluate the feasibility of collecting biomass from its members and then pelletizing it. The pelletized biomass would then be sold to Madison, Wis.-based Alliant Energy for use at its proposed 300-megawatt Nelson Dewey Generating Station expansion in Cassville, Wis., where the company plans to burn up to 20 percent biomass along with coal in a new third unit to generate electricity.

According to Andy Fiene, general manager for Premier, the cooperative is building a new feed manufacturing facility in Mineral Point, Wis., that could be modified to pelletize biomass, especially switchgrass and corn stover. He said the cooperative is using the grant money to hire a consultant to gauge cooperative members' interest in collecting and pelletizing biomass and to look at the cost of the logistics for doing so. Ultimately, the consultant will put together a business plan and proposal for the project, he said, adding that the cooperative hopes to have the feasibility study completed by the end of the year.

Fiene said while the proposed Alliant Energy biomass feedstock requirement is the main driver behind the project, there are other markets for pelletized biomass that the cooperative can help to satisfy, including demand from other electrical utilities, as well as consumer demand for use in pellet stoves.