Proponents of a $250 million project to convert a coal-fired power plant to biomass at the University of Wisconsin-Madison say the project is moving ahead, damn the torpedoes.
Those torpedoes include the fact that the project represents nearly a fifth of the state’s capital budget from 2009-11, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.
Other factors going against the plant are that upfront construction costs are higher than other alternatives, and that there is not an existing infrastructure nearby to process the biomass.
Finally, the regional market into which the plant is supposed to sell its excess electricity is already flooded with other options.
The plant’s conversion was prompted by a Sierra Club lawsuit. In 2008, the state pledged to stop using coal at the 1950s-era plant.
By 2013, UW aims to have the plant fully converted to a 60 percent biomass, 40 percent natural gas mix. The plant will produce about three times as much power as the one it replaces.
The conversion continues to be criticized for its high costs. Switching to natural gas would have cost half as much, according to a consultant’s report in 2008.
Responding to critics, David Helbach, administrator of the Division of State Facilities, said that the project would jump-start the state’s biofuels market.
Biofuel options include wood waste, wood chips, pelletized paper, yard waste, old tires and agricultural crops.