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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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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WBIA Member Boldt Wins $255 Million Biomass Plant Contract

WBIA member The Boldt Co. won the construction contract for WE Energies new $255 million biomass plant in Rothschild.  Boldt will provide all construction services for the plant that is to be built at the Domtar paper mill, and will use wood waste to produce electricity.

The project is now pending approval by the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin.  If approved, work will begin in spring 2011.

This project will help Wisconsin toward complying with the mandate that 10 percent of all the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015. It is another important step for advancing Wisconsin’s biomass industry and securing energy security for our state and nation.

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Miron Executive Discusses Green Building, New Biorefinery

Theresa Lehman, director of sustainable services for WBIA member Miron Construction was recently interviewed in the Appleton Post-Crescent about the new green building trend. Miron Construction has been a leader in this field and has shown a deep commitment to renewable energy.

Lehman discusses the new biorefinery they are helping to in Park Falls at the Flambeau River Paper mill:

Miron Construction is involved with an innovative project in Park Falls with the Flambeau River Papers mill. What can you share about that?

As we all know, pulp and paper mills were the bread and butter for the Fox Valley at one time. But paper mills today are having a tough time in the global marketplace. What’s happening in Park Falls is a unique opportunity. What they’re doing is creating a process … taking wood mass and converting it into wax and biofuel.

It takes a tremendous amount of heat to do this and what they’ll be able to do is take the heat to create steam to generate electricity for the plant. This will save a lot of money and help the plant become more competitive.

It certainly is a step toward energy independence and the technology is something that can help paper mills be more competitive in the global marketplace.

This is a key project for the bio industry in Wisconsin. With an ample supply of biomass materials, Wisconsin is poised to be a leader in this area. The Flambeau River project will be the second largest biorefinery of its kind in the US.

We at the WBIA are proud to see one of our members contributing so successfully to building this sector of the bio industry.

Click here to read the entire article.

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