State cancels plans for UW biomass plant

Friday, January 21, 2011

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The Walker administration has canceled plans to build a biomass power plant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The power plant, a priority of former Gov. Jim Doyle, will burn natural gas instead.

The state can expect to save about $75 million to $80 million as a result of the decision, said Jeff Plale, Walker's new director of state facilities and former Democratic state senator from Milwaukee County.

The state will save $100 million by not pursuing biomass but will have to spend $20 million to $25 million to add another natural gas boiler to the plant, he said.

"It was a decision based on cost. The capital cost of that project was roughly $100 million, and it was the belief of the agency and the governor that that price tag was just way too high," Plale said.

Construction of the $251 million UW power plant project began last fall and represents nearly one-fifth of the state's 2009-'11 capital budget. The project was being built in phases, with the natural gas portion being built first and the biomass to come later.

Instead of picking the cheapest option - burning coal - state and UW officials opted for a combination of natural gas and biomass from local tree trimmings and crops.

The move is the latest in a series of steps reversing energy and related policies supported by the Doyle administration, including cancellation of the high-speed train proposed to link Milwaukee and Madison and legislation unveiled last week that could slow development of wind power projects in the state.