WBIA BLOG

The Wisconsin Energy Institute and Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center

Our most recent member meeting of the WBIA was hosted by the Great Lakes Bio Energy Research Center located in the brand new Wisconsin Energy Institute on the UW-Madison campus.

Hosted by the WEI’s Associate Director, Mary Blanchard, we received an overview on the GLBRC’s mission and projects from their Scientific Programs Manager, Steve Slater. Finally, Leith Nye, the GLBRC’s Education and Outreach Coordinator led us on a tour of the facility.

 

The GLBRC is a Department of Energy funded project that seeks to “perform the basic research that generates technology to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol and other advanced biofuels.” In a nutshell, they are at the forefront of finding ways to advance renewable energy from cellulosic biomass. If you can think of it, they’re probably doing it.

 

While we were only able to glimpse into a handful of their most promising work, the GLBRC’s location at the WEI building is not by accident. The WEI has brought together researchers from diverse disciplines to better understand the larger picture of our energy issues. The Wisconsin Energy Institute is the only bioenergy research facility located on an academic campus and takes full advantage of that, bridging the gaps between the many fields in which scientists and students are working on the future of energy, from biofuels to batteries.

The presentation from Dr. Slater was focused on three projects the GLBRC’s is most excited about, which we’ll cover in our next blog post. Stay tuned!

We were also able to walk through the factors involved in bringing cellulosic ethanol to market. Dr. Slater broke down which aspects in the four stages of refinement play most into economic viability, and offered some insight onto the technology they are developing which can reduce their impact on the bottom line.

 

If you’d like to know more, contact the Wisconsin Energy Institute and the Great Lakes Bio Energy Research Center. Both of these organizations are doing truly astonishing work, and we’re proud to have them in the state of Wisconsin. We’d also like to thank their communications/event staff for providing us with the opportunity and helping us make the most of our visit.

 

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Following initial backlash, biomass plant supporters emerge

For the past several weeks, we have posted blogs and news stories about the opposition facing the proposed biomass plant in Rothschild, Wisc. The plant’s supporters are now taking their turn to speak up.

The Wausau Daily Herald ran Tom Tyskiewicz’s letter to the editor on June 17 in which he stated his support of the project. Tyskiewicz asked  Rothschild residents to embrace change and progress for the sake of our future. He said he believes renewable energy is a big part of that future.

Tyskiewicz reminds us that Domtar and WE Energies are two companies “held in high standards by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, EPA and DNR.” He adds that “nothing will be built without their final stamp of approval.”

Tyskiewicz was not alone in his sentiments. Today the Wausau Daily Herald ran Kathleen M. Ruenger’s letter to the editor pledging her support of the plant and calling it “a win-win situation for all involved: Domtar, WE Energies, the Village of Rothschild and all other communities involved.”

Ruenger address concerns that the new biomass plant would reduce air quality in the area. She refers to the Rothschild Paper Mill’s storied past in which it was always environmentally and socially responsible. Ruenger believes the new plant will be no different.

We at the WBIA are glad to see Wisconsin communities rise up in support of a good cause. The support of Wisconsinites like Ruenger and Tyskiewicz is crucial if the WBIA hopes to achieve it’s goal of helping Wisconsin be the nation’s leader among states to improve the efficiency, conservation and profitability of bio fuel production.

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Newest protester of Rothschild biomass power plant baffling

In a great Wednesday article, the Wausau Daily Herald reported that the D.C. Everest Area School District is looking to join the decision making process behind the proposed $250 million Rothschild biomass power plant.

The district wants “intervenor” status along with such groups as the Wisconsin Public Service Co., Citizens Utility Board, Wisconsin Paper Council, Memominee Tribal Enterprises, labor unions and a group opposed to the power plant called Save Our Air Resource.

The Superintendent Kristine Gilmore said the district’s involvement is crucial because it is responsible for the health and safety of all its students and staff. The district believes that the plant’s emissions could be harmful to students with asthma and other respiratory conditions and that nearby schools do not have the proper ventilation or cleaning equipment to handle the emissions.

The district’s intervenor request was filed well past the April 30 deadline, but  WE Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said PSC typically grants intervenor requests even if they are filed after deadline.

Superintendent Gilmore’s concerns are genuine and respectable, but perhaps the district is missing the bigger picture. It is precisely this younger generation that will suffer if we do not continue to strongly pursue bio power.

Also important to remember is that use of biomass as an energy source results in little net production of carbon dioxide, because the CO2 generated during combustion of plant material equals the CO2 consumed during the lifecycle of the plant. Biomass reduces air pollution by being a part of the carbon cycle, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent compared with fossil fuels.

We understand the school district’s concerns, and considering its stake in the matter, it should be granted intervenor status, but the pursuit of bio power will benefit these child in the long run.

Manthey, however, did say that WE Energies plans to have the plant operational by 2013 and that opposition by the D.C. Everest Area School District, SOAR and others should not slow the project.

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DOE Announces $5M Biomass Research Funding Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a new $5 million funding opportunity for research focused on sustainable production of large quantities of non-food biomass for bioenergy.  Biomass will play a significant role in our country’s renewable fuels portfolio, and can have a huge impact on Wisconsin’s economy.  Wisconsin doesn’t have coal, oil or natural gas reserves. We do have biomass, however, in the form of paper waste and woodchips.  Encouraging this industry in our state can create jobs and pump millions of dollars into Wisconsin’s economy.

For more information about the grant, visit the Grants.gov website.

To learn more about biomass, you can download fact sheets from our Bio Power page.

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