Wisconsin biomass power plant gets draft air permits

By Lisa Gibson | February 15, 2011

We Energies has received draft air permits for both the construction and operation of its 50-megawatt cogeneration plant to be co-located at a Domtar Paper mill in Rothschild, Wis.

Following the issuance of the draft permits from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is a 30-day public comment period and hearing, according Brian Manthey, We Energies media relations representative. The public hearing is scheduled for March 1, after which time, the WDNR will make the final decision on the permits. “It should be noted that all of our local permits and variances have passed governmental bodies unanimously,” Manthey said. “We have been pleased by the strong support in the community and we would expect that to continue at the hearing.”

“All public input will be considered prior to making a final decision on the construction permit application,” the preliminary approval letter from WDNR reads. “The final determination will be made within 60 days of the end of the public comment period or the date of the public hearing, whichever is later, unless compliance with Wisconsin’s Environmental Policy Act requires a longer time.”

Even if the permits become final, We Energy still needs final approval from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, which regulates the state’s utilities, Manthey said. “We anticipate that the PSCW will take up the project application at one of its regularly scheduled open meetings in March,” he said, adding that the commission meets once a week, but the discussion about the project has not been scheduled.

The $255 million facility would run on recycled mill waste from the papermaking process, along with waste wood from area forest operations and sawmills. It will generate enough electricity to supply 40,000 homes, along with steam for the Domtar mill process. Construction will create an estimated 400 jobs, followed by 150 permanent jobs during operation, according to the company.