Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Biomass: Where's the Fuel?

Interesting article on Doylet's UW-Madison biomass-burner.

A state-funded, $250 million project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison aims to convert a coal-fired power plant on campus to one that primarily burns biomass such as tree trimmings and crops, ideally becoming a model for how the state can reduce its carbon output and its dependence on fossil fuels.

But the massive venture - accounting for nearly one-fifth of the state's capital budget during the 2009-'11 budget period - faces considerable hurdles. Among them:

• Upfront construction costs will be higher than other alternatives that were considered.

• No infrastructure exists to process the eclectic mix of fuels the plant would burn.

• The plant's surplus electricity will be sold into a regional market already awash in excess power.

Although there are some extant sources of biomass fuel in the Madison area, a lot of work remains for the technology to:

1) produce enough fuel for the plant, and

2) produce fuel which is 'burnable' with the necessary consistency.

And that will call for a lot of money from private sources--and likely, State and Federal grants.

If nothing else, this project is "Hope 'n' Change" in action.

1 comment:

Headless Blogger said...

There is a reason that no for profit corporation has proposed building this thing. Biomass makes crappy fuel, it does not have high energy density and it fouls boilers badly.

It wasn't that long ago that the PSC's chief focus was to approve only the most economical new power plants. I doubt that this statutory requirement has been changed.