ROTHSCHILD, WI (WSAU) - If you’ve driven through Rothschild, or along I-39 and looked across the Wisconsin River and wondered about the large, multi-story building under construction, it’s about to become the area’s next power plant.
Wisconsin Energy Corporation subsidiary We Energies has teamed up with Domtar’s Rothschild paper mill to create a 50 megawatt power plant that burns sawdust and wood waste from the mill. We Energies will be generating electricity for the grid and steam for the paper mill.
We Energies Chairman, President, and CEO Gale Klappa says the energy landscape is dramatically changing. Wisconsin has a law requiring power companies to meet a 10% renewable energy requirement by 2015. He says they already have two large wind farms, but this will help meet that requirement.
Klappa says wind farms produce a fair amount of energy, but you can’t count on wind to blow when you need the energy the most... like on a hot summer day. With the biomass plant, that won’t be a problem. “With the biomass plant, we diversify. We diversify our sources of renewable energy and we can dispatch this plant. We can call on it when we need it, so we can call on it to run at any level up to the fifty megawatts of capacity that we’re building it to reach, at anytime of the day or night, or any season of the year.”
We Energies studied this project extensively before committing 250 million dollars to build it. Klappa says their study showed another big advantage with co-generation. “By fueling the power plant with wood waste, we will provide electricity, renewable electricity for the grid, but we will also provide steam for the papermaking operations at Domtar.”
Klappa says another benefit will be efficiency for both We Energies and Domtar. With the new plant creating steam for the paper mill, the site’s total impact on the environment will be less than it is now. “With the modern, state-of-the-art environmental controls that we’re adding to this plant, the total emissions from the plant, once we’re operational, will actually go down, even though we’re adding capacity, will go down by 30%.”
The Rothschild Biomass Plant will be operational later this year.
Wisconsin Energy Corporation’s annual stockholders meeting is being held today in Rothschild. Klappa says they brought the meeting here to give stockholders an opportunity to see the Biomass plant and learn more about it.