Wisconsin tribal organization plans biomass plant

By Lisa Gibson | January 24, 2011

A proposed waste-to-energy facility in Ashwaubenon, Wis., has run into some local opposition, and while the developing company does not need approval from the municipality, it is going through the public input process as a courtesy and to gather feedback, it said.

Oneida Seven Generations Corp., a subsidiary of the Oneida Tribe of Indians, has rolled out plans to build a 5-megawatt, 60,000-square-foot power plant on industrial property in the eastern Wisconsin village. The property is federal trust land, so the village does not have oversight, but the local opinion of the facility is still important, according to Pete King, project manager.

“The municipality had some recommendations and we made some changes based on those suggestions,” he said. “Although we do not need the municipality’s approval, it’s important to note our facility must receive an environmental assessment (EA) approval from both the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the U.S. Department of Energy.” King added that the EA prepared for the BIA is still under review. “Our trust land is also governed by the federal government via the Environmental Protection Agency. Through those entities, the public can be assured that this will be an environmentally safe and beneficial process.”

The $23 million plant will use 150 tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) per day through contracts with private haulers as well as municipalities, King said. The excess power will be sold to Wisconsin Public Service for the local grid. The plant will employ what Oneida Seven Generations calls pyrolysis gasification, where the feedstock is heated and broken down into syngas. If permitting goes as planned, construction could proceed this spring with operation in December of this year, King said.

In assuring the safety of the public, the company has disseminated information explaining that all MSW unloading will be done indoors, inside an eight-inch thick block wall, with landscaping designed to minimize visibility and noise. Construction of the facility will create about 50 jobs, along with another 30 during operation. Oneida Seven Generations has also promised that revenue generated by the project will be used for tribal housing, education, healthcare, infrastructure and other economic development opportunities.