TCL&P biomass plant plans halted

By Anna Austin | May 31, 2010
Posted July 1, 2010, at 2:32 p.m. CST

Just two months after the Traverse City Light & Power board voted to move forward with plans to build a 10-megawatt cogeneration biomass power plant at Traverse City, Mich., those plans are off the table for the time being; potentially, even for good.

In a formal announcement, the company stated the decision was made because of concerns raised by local citizens, an issue that was raised prior to the board's vote in April to go ahead with the plant plans. A telephone survey conducted between March 23 and April 8, however, found that the majority of customers were either somewhat or very supportive of the plant plans, and that opposition was marginal.

For five years, TCL&P has researched plans for the facility, which would have required about 100,000 tons of wood chips per year from forest residue and other woody biomass. Several different studies performed by the Department of Natural Resources and other forest experts indicated there was plenty of feedstock to sustainably power the plant. Additionally, it was found that biomass power would produce the lowest rates for customers and yield the highest efficiency, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Now, TCL&P will investigate using natural gas for fuel at the proposed power plant, though Executive Director Ed Rice acknowledged that would essentially be replacing one fossil fuel (coal) for another. He added that with five new wind turbines and a new landfill gas plant, however, the company should still be able to meet its previously slated goal of achieving 30 percent of its power generation from renewable energy by 2020, and the state's mandate of 10 percent renewable energy by 2015.

Board Chairman Mike Coco said the company is now going to take another look at all of its options, and hold a study session in July to re-evaluate the company's strategic energy goals and shift in direction.