Replacing Charter St. coal plant not coming cheaply

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coal at the UW-Madison’s Charter Street Heating Plant will soon be replaced by wood and natural gas.

From an article by Mike Ivey in The Capital Times:

Converting the aging coal-burning Charter Street Heating Plant into one of the greenest facilities of its kind is coming at a price.

The new facility, which received initial approval from the city Plan Commission Monday night, will have the capacity to burn wood chips, corn stalks, switchgrass pellets or other biomass.

But including biomass in the fuel mix has added at least $50 million in cost to the estimated $250 million power plant, the most expensive single project in UW-Madison history. . . .

Just one of four boilers in the new power plant will burn biomass as part of a demonstration project ordered by Gov. Doyle to help the state's fledgling bioenergy industry. The balance of the facility will be fired by natural gas, which is piped into the facility.

Using biomass at full capacity, however, could require bringing 2 to 3 freight trains each day into the heart of campus to deliver enough fuel. Currently, one train every other day is used to bring coal into the plant.

To accommodate that level of rail activity, the UW is proposing additional sidings along the corridor running behind the Kohl Center. It will also need to construct new RR bridges across North Park Street and East Campus Mall.

In addition, the work will require moving the so-called "Missing Link" bike trail to the south, closing one of the most-used bicycle routes on campus while the work is completed.