In March, MGE plant to make gas its primary fuel

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

From an article by Judy Newman in the Wisconsin State Journal:

In March, the century-old Blount Street power plant Downtown will make natural gas - not coal - its primary fuel.

The change will cut down on air pollution in the city but will also mean the elimination of nine jobs at the Madison Gas & Electric plant, employees were told last week.

"The amount of coal we plan to burn this year (at the Blount plant) compared to just a few years ago is significantly less. It is way, way down," MGE spokesman Steve Kraus said Monday.

That's not so much due to a conscious effort by the Madison utility company to scale back, prior to plans - announced in 2006 - to stop burning coal at Blount altogether by the end of 2011.

The power plant has burned less and less coal over the past couple of years as demand for elecricity has shrunk with the stunted economy, and as the Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, which runs the Great Lakes-area power grid, has called the plant into service less often, Kraus said.

"So our need to buy coal has gone down to virtually nothing," he said.

Built in 1903, the Blount Street power plant was a baseload plant for decades, supplying electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to Madison. But as new generation has been built in recent years - including the natural gas-fueled power plant on the UW-Madison campus that provides steam and chilled water to heat and cool campus buildings, in addition to generating up to 150 megawatts of electricity - the Blount Street plant has been relegated to secondary status.