Jo-Carroll Energy pursues biomass alternative to off-system power

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment until May 29 on a draft water discharge permit being sought by Jo-Carroll Energy Inc. for a 20-MW biomass power project located at Thomson in Carroll County called the Sand Prairie project.

“This facility is a proposed 20 MW (gross) cogeneration facility producing electricity and steam for sale using a biomass-fired bubbling fluidized bed (BFB) boiler, a selective non-catalytic reduction (SNCR) system utilizing aqueous ammonia, and a steam turbine generator,” said an IEPA public notice. “The biomass fuel will generally consist of chipped wood waste, but may consist of a 90% Wood/10% Corn Stover/Switchgrass blend. The facility also employs the use of a wet surface air cooler (WSAC) steam condensing system and a WSAC auxiliary cooling system.”

The notice later added: “The station will supply steam to an adjacent industrial facility (Danisco) and will generate up to 20 MW of electricity that will be distributed to local customers or the grid. … The plant will generate electricity from a renewable fuel source for use by the local community and region. Approximately 26 full time positions will be created for operation and maintenance of the plant. Approximately 300 workers will be temporarily employed in the construction of the facility for about 2.5 years.”

Jo-Carroll Energy, a member-owned cooperative, provides electric and natural gas service to members in Jo Daviess, Carroll and Whiteside counties. Jo-Carroll Energy President Michael Hastings said in a column in the cooperative’s February newsletter to customers that the biomass power project is part of the cooperative’s efforts to protect itself from higher power costs. He said the cooperative has a contract with Dairyland Power Cooperative for about 20% of its power and with Interstate Power and Light for the other 80%. In the late fall of last year, there was a big price spike that was attributable primarily to IPL, since Dairyland’s power costs remained steady, Hastings wrote.

“Based in part on these price spikes, Jo-Carroll Energy has provided IPL with notice of termination of our wholesale electric power supply contract,” Hastings wrote. “In the meantime, Jo-Carroll Energy has reached out to several other power suppliers about possible future power supply arrangements. We also continue to develop plans for our own renewable energy biomass plant, which may also be an option for your co-op’s future power supply portfolio. We hope to conclude our business with IPL regarding wholesale electric power supply within the next two years or so. Other rate challenges are facing us as well. Wholesale power costs are continuing to trend up. We will keep you apprised of these developments as well.”

The cooperative said in a separate article in the newsletter that much of the expected jump in wholesale power prices is due to the impacts on the coal-fired power of Dairyland and other power suppliers due to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air emissions rules.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.