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Groundbreaking held for new pollution control project at Weston 3 power plant


WESTON, Wis. (WSAU) - A Groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for a project that will reduce air pollution at the Weston #3 power plant. Wisconsin Public Service officials were joined by state and local officials, engineers from URS Corporation, and officials from system designer Hamon Research-Cottrell.

WPS’s Mark Maurer says it’s called ReACT, which stands for Regenerative Activated Coke Technology. He says the technology is proven in Europe and Japan, but this is the first time it’s being used in America. “This is serial number one in the United States of a new, innovative technology called ReACT, and it controls sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, mercury, and other pollutants.”

The ReACT system passes exhaust gases from burning coal over activated coke pellets, which absorb the pollutants, which can be recovered. It is a dry process requiring minimal amounts of water. Maurer says this also allows them to reclaim a byproduct and produce a marketable chemical: sulphuric acid. He believes there will be enough sulphuric acid produced to market it to manufacturers and paper producers. “There is a lot of factors that go into how much sulfuric acid that is produced, but a nominal production would be two to three truck tankers a day.”

WPS evaluated the Weston #3 plant which began service in 1981. WPS Vice President of Energy Supply Paul Spicer says the 32-year-old plant can still have a long future. “It’s a pretty tumultuous environment right now for power generators. We had to decide, you know, what does the future of this plant look like? What it looks like is, it looks like it has the ability to provide more value to the customers long into the future. In order to do that however, we do need to make some improvements. We do need to make some upgrades.” By improving the emission control system, Weston #3 will become more efficient by eliminating the need for multiple pollution control devices.

Maurer says construction period will put several people to work. “That’s beneficial, not just to the employees here by keeping their jobs, but also it helps the community as well with construction jobs. We’re adding jobs as part of the ReACT (project) for long term, about eight new, additional jobs.”

Construction of the ReACT system means building a ten story tall building that’s about sixty feet by one hundred feet. That sounds big, but it is smaller than the existing buildings that house the Weston #3 and #4 generating units. Maurer says the construction process will take nearly three years. “We’re looking at about a forty month construction period, starting this year and going through 2013, 2014, and 2015, and then commercial in 2016.”

Construction crews are already preparing the site for the new building and its ReACT system components for the Weston #3 plant.

All four of the power plants in Weston are fired by Wyoming coal that is brought in by railcars.

Weston #1 went online in 1954 and produces sixty megawatts of electricity. Weston #2 started up in 1960 producing 75 megawatts of electricity. The two newer plants have much higher generating capacity. Weston #3 has been generating 320 megawatts since it was built in 1981. The five-year-old Weston #4 puts out 500 megawatts. There are also peak demand units which can add another seventy two megawatts when needed. To put this into perspective, WPS says the Weston #3 unit alone generates enough electricity to power two cities the size of Wausau.