We Energies, Domtar biomass plant will be built

By Anna Austin | June 20, 2011

We Energies’ 50-megawatt, woody biomass-fired cogeneration plant proposed in Rothschild, Wis., will be built after all, as project partner Domtar Corp. has agreed to the project’s revised financial conditions as required by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.

We Energies Spokesman Brian Manthey confirmed that the company and Domtar had reached an agreement, and said construction of the plant is now in the clear and would soon commence.   

The project has faced numerous hurdles since it was announced in the fall of 2009, including opposition from anti-biomass activists and being twice ordered by the PSCW to lower the cost of the project. According to the recently agreed upon financial plan for the $255 million plant, Domtar will increase its capital cost allocation of $22 million to $47 million, upping its steam payment to We Energies by 20 percent to save ratepayers about $2 million in annual capital recovery costs.

The plant will be fueled with recycled mill waste from Domtar’s papermaking process, along with waste wood from area forest operations and sawmills. Steam produced at the plant will be used to power the papermaking process at Domtar’s co-located mill; power produced will be plugged into the grid to help Wisconsin meet its renewable portfolio standard of 10 percent by 2015.

Manthey said nothing else will hold up the project, as it has its required air permit and approval from the WPSC. “The last thing we’re doing is filing the details about our compliance with the commission’s order points, but we don’t have to wait for that to begin building,” he said. “We’re finally there.”