50-MW We Energies biomass project fires into commercial operation

We Energies said Nov. 11 that the biomass-fueled power plant on the site of Domtar Corp.’s Rothschild, Wisc., paper mill was placed into commercial operation on Nov. 8, after testing and commissioning activities were successfully completed.

Wood, waste wood and sawdust are being used to produce up to 50 MW. The steam provided by the plant is also supporting Domtar’s sustainable papermaking operations.

“The addition of the biomass plant enables us to produce renewable energy on demand,” said Gale Klappa, We Energies chairman, president and CEO. “That benefit is simply not available with solar or wind generation.”

The company’s renewable energy portfolio includes the state’s two largest wind developments – the 145-MW Blue Sky Green Field Wind Energy Center in Fond du Lac County and the 162-MW Glacier Hills Wind Park in Columbia County. In total, these three renewable energy projects are capable of delivering nearly 360 MW of renewable energy, enough to supply about 120,000 homes.

More than 400 workers contributed to the construction of the biomass plant, which also will support about 150 permanent jobs in the region, including independent wood suppliers and haulers from northern and central Wisconsin who will secure needed waste wood. It is officially called the Rothschild Biomass Cogeneration Facility. 

Under Wisconsin law, utilities statewide must use renewable energy to meet 10% of the electricity needs of retail customers by the year 2015. With the commercial operation of the Rothschild biomass plant, We Energies estimates that it has secured enough renewable energy to remain in compliance with the state mandate through 2022.

Domtar’s use of the steam produced by the plant will also help improve the paper mill’s energy efficiency and reduce overall emissions at the site by more than 30%.

We Energies serves more than 1.1 million electric customers in Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and 1.1 million natural gas customers in Wisconsin. We Energies is the trade name of Wisconsin Electric Power and Wisconsin Gas LLC, the principal utility subsidiaries of Wisconsin Energy (NYSE: WEC).

Domtar (NYSE: UFS) (TSX: UFS) designs, manufactures, markets and distributes a wide variety of fiber-based products including communication papers, specialty and packaging papers and absorbent hygiene products.

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.