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Environmentally friendly upgrade planned for Charter Street plant

May 21, 2009

A $251 million overhaul of UW–Madison’s Charter Street Heating Plant would make it one of the largest biomass energy projects in the nation, according to a consultant’s report.

The investment will transform how energy is produced and provided to the campus by eliminating the use of coal at the facility and replacing it with biomass and natural gas boilers. The report also includes plans for an upgrade at the Capital Heat and Power Plant in downtown Madison.

Gov. Jim Doyle released the plan this week.

“This plan provides the roadmap for how we will change the way energy is produced and provided on Madison’s isthmus,” Doyle says. “The projects will create jobs, at first in the construction sector, and then long-term, as we create markets for alternative energy sources in Wisconsin, with the added bonus of significantly lowering greenhouse gas emissions from two state heating plants.”

Alan Fish, associate vice chancellor for facilities at UW–Madison, says the plan will lower emissions and provide a boost to the state’s economy.

“This project will put the campus at the forefront of clean, sustainable energy technology, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help stimulate green jobs and the biomass market in Wisconsin,” he says.

The state Department of Administration and UW–Madison retained Titus, a national consulting firm in partnership with the law firms of Godfrey and Kahn and Gonzalez, Saggio and Harlan, to analyze the project. The goals were to provide economical and reliable sources of energy, while minimizing environmental impacts.

The facility now has four boilers, ranging from 38 to 50 years old. A new biomass boiler would be installed, while three existing coal-fired units would be outfitted to burn natural gas, oil and another would be equipped for natural gas and biomass co-firing.

The consultant’s report also says that one of the strategic assets of the project is a biomass research lab at the Charter Street facility that will provide ongoing analysis, monitoring and evaluation of the plant’s performance and support the growth and development of a biomass market.

As part of the project, two new steam turbine generators and a new electric substation would be installed to serve an expanded underground electric distribution system. An upgraded rail delivery system for delivery of biomass fuel and a season storage building would also be constructed.

The project would expand the plant’s footprint to a triangular university-owned site just east of the existing plant across Mills Street.

Plant efficiencies would be upgraded and a campuswide control room would be installed at the Charter Street plant, with the aim of improving efficiency by 5 to 10 percent by completion of the project in December 2013.

Doyle has previously said that coal should not be an option when considering alternatives for fueling state-owned heating plants on Madison’s isthmus. The Charter Street project was included in the 2009-11 capital budget and approved by the State Building Commission.

The upgrades will significantly reduce emissions at the facility once the improvements are complete.

Consultants also recommended continuing efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce demand.

They also projected that the state’s purchasing power would stimulate local biomass markets and strengthen local economies by developing jobs in the “green economy.”

Tags: environment