Two Wisconsin power plants convert to biomass

By Lisa Gibson | October 27, 2010

Two biomass power conversion projects in Wisconsin are progressing, one already operating and the other just beginning its transformation.

DTE Energy Services has completed the conversion of a coal-fired power station in Cassville, Wis., to biomass and is selling the resulting 40 megawatts to Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse, Wis. The facility, named E.J. Stoneman Station, now burns wood waste such as residue from forestry and tree trimming operations, railroad ties, demolition waste and sawdust.

The plant was owned and brought into service in 1951 by Dairlyand, but was sold in the 90s, according to DTE. The resurrected plant is now providing clean power back to its original owner. “We are pleased to see this major renewable energy resource come on line for our cooperative membership,” said Dale Pohlman, Dairyland vice president of strategic planning.

“DTE Energy Services is proud to be able to bring the Stoneman plant new life as a generator of renewable energy,” said David Ruud, president of DTE. He added that the plant will provide 32 local jobs and support the local economy through relationships with fuel suppliers and other local businesses.

Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has broken ground for the conversion of its Charter Street Heating Plant from coal to biomass. The $251 million project will include the replacement of coal-burning boilers, initially with natural gas furnaces, but by 2013, the plant will be burning about 250,000 tons annually of wood chips, corn stalks and switchgrass pellets from around the state, according to the university. The construction process has begun with a partnership between Appleton, Wis.,-based Boldt Construction and British engineering firm AMEC.

“It is a great moment in time when Wisconsin is going to demonstrate to the country and the world our commitment to a new energy future,” said Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle. Doyle isn’t the only one excited about the project, which is expected to operate as much as 10 percent more efficiently. “We know it will be fueling research into a number of problems for which we need solutions,” said UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin. “It integrates all of what matters to us: basic research, education, outreach and real-world practice.”