Wisconsin paper mill may host biomass power plant

By Anna Austin
North American papermaker Domtar Corp.'s paper mill in Rothschild, Mich., may be the future site of a $250 million We Energies cogeneration biomass power plant, the companies announced Sept. 1.

The paper mill, built in 1909, has an annual paper production capacity of 147,000 tons and an annual pulp production capacity of 60,000 tons.

The 50-megawatt biomass power plant would share the mill's current location and use recycled mill waste (bark and sludge residues) from the papermaking process, and waste wood from area forest operations and saw mills. This would eliminate the use of fossil fuels at the paper mill, and generate enough electricity to power roughly 40,000 homes.

Wisconsin legislation currently requires that by 2015, 10 percent of the state's electricity be generated from renewable sources, or enough to supply the needs of 850,000 homes each year.

Feedstock sustainability will not be an issue, as studies indicate that area forests within a 75-mile radius of the Domtar mill can support the proposed biomass power plant, according to We Energies. The company estimated the biomass power plant would require approximately 500,000 tons of material per year, or the equivalent of 70 to 90 truckloads per day.

Once the feedstock is transported to the site, the fuel will be stored in the form of small chips, similar to fine mulch. When needed, it will be transferred to a standard, utility-style boiler and combusted to produce high-pressure steam, which is sent to a turbine generator to power the Domtar mill. The steam is then cooled in a condenser, and sent back to the boiler for reuse.

An estimated 400 new jobs will be created throughout project construction, which will be funded by We Energies, and about 150 permanent jobs will be created to support facility operations.

We Energies plans to file an application for a Certificate of Authority with the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin in early 2010, to request approval for the biomass plant. If approved, the company expects the plant to be operational in the first half of 2013.

Another biomass power plant proposal in Wisconsin, Xcel Energy's Ashland Bay Front Power Plant, is currently awaiting project approval from the PSCW. Once complete, it will become the largest 100 percent biomass-fired power plant in the U.S.
For more information about Xcel Energy's project, go to www.biomassmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=2924&q=wisconsin biomass.