Coal plants are being converted to biomass as fast as … “fast-growing, bio-engineered cottonwood trees” (see “Another coal plant to be replaced by a ‘plant’ plant!” and “Southern Company embraces the only practical and affordable way to ‘capture’ emissions at a coal plant today “” run it on biomass“). Another one bites the dust:
The Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (PSCW) has unanimously approved Xcel Energy’ss application to install biomass gasification technology at its Bay Front Power Plant in Ashland, Wis. When completed, the project will convert the plant’s remaining coal-fired unit to biomass gasification technology, allowing it to use 100 percent biomass in all three boilers and making it the largest biomass plant in the Midwest. Currently, two of the three operating units at Bay Front use biomass as their primary fuel to generate electricity.
The project, estimated at $58.1 million, will require additional biomass receiving and handling facilities at the plant, an external gasifier, minor modifications to the plant`s remaining coal-fired boiler and an enhanced air quality control system. The total generation output of the plant is not expected to change significantly as a result of the project.
“We appreciate the PSCW`s fair and thorough review of the application and believe that their decision recognizes the benefits of this project to provide environmentally-responsible, cost-effective energy to our customers and communities,” said Mike Swenson, president and CEO, Northern States Power Company-Wisconsin, an Xcel Energy. “The Bay Front project demonstrates our continuing commitment to the environment and a clean energy future. We`re helping our customers and communities practice sustainability while increasing local economic development.”
Through its purchases of wood residues and related services, the Bay Front Power Plant has a $20 million annual economic impact on a six-county region around Ashland. That economic impact will increase as the plant purchases more wood residues from area contractors.
The Bay Front Power Plant was originally constructed and began operation in 1916. In 1960, it operated five boilers and six turbines. Since then, two of the boilers, and three of the turbines, have been retired. The three remaining boilers feed into a combined steam header system that can support three turbine-generator sets.
In 2008, Xcel Energy installed NOx (nitrogen oxides) emission control equipment on the two boilers that primarily burn wood, allowing both to continue to operate into the foreseeable future. When evaluating various alternatives for the remaining boiler, which primarily burns coal, it was determined that expanding Bay Front as a biomass resource was preferred over incurring significant increases in coal costs, and also environmental compliance costs relating to the Clean Air Interstate Rule and regulations on mercury emissions.
In addition to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by switching from coal to biomass in the remaining unit, the project will drastically reduce other air emissions, including nitrogen oxides by more than 60 percent and sulfur dioxides and particulate matter by more than 80 percent.
The primary source of biomass at Bay Front is expected to be the lower quality, unused materials that are currently left in area forests following traditional harvests, such as treetops, logging slash, damaged trees, underutilized species, and the cull and mortality classed trees. Initial investigations conducted by Xcel Energy show more than ample supplies of this lower quality biomass within
See also “An intro to biomass cofiring.”
MDU Resources Group Inc said late Monday it would not build the planned 500-to-600-megawatt Big Stone II coal-fired power project near Milbank, South Dakota.
MDU said in a release the project required additional participants to move forward but none have committed.
In September, Otter Tail Corp, Big Stone II’s lead developer, withdrew from the project due to the economic downturn and the high level of uncertainty associated with proposed federal climate legislation.
The federal government was working on legislation to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions — likely by putting a price on emitting those emissions — in an effort to stop global warming from potentially damaging the planet.
The burning of coal to generate power produces about twice as much CO2 as natural gas.
The Big Stone II project was estimated to cost about $1.6 billion, not including needed transmission upgrades, according to a spokesman at MDU.
He noted some transmission was already in place as there was an existing 470 MW coal-fired Unit 1 at Big Stone, which entered service in 1975 and burns coal railed in from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.
Big Stone is located in Grant County in South Dakota about 200 miles west of Minneapolis, near the South Dakota-Minnesota border.
Unit 2 was to enter service in the 2015-2016 timeframe, the spokesman noted.
Montana-Dakota Utilities Co, a subsidiary or MDU, said it was “disappointing that Big Stone II will not be built,” but noted the utility had adequate electric supplies for the near term.
“We have a purchased power agreement through 2015 that was to bridge us to Big Stone II going online; we still have that agreement in place,” Dave Goodin, president and CEO of Montana-Dakota, said in the release.
“We will now look at other supply options that are reliable and cost-beneficial for our customers. We have plans to expand our wind production by 30 megawatts in 2010 and will review other generation options,” Goodin said.
The spokesman noted the area had a lot of wind potential but needed more base load power. Base load generation runs around the clock and usually includes coal, nuclear and combined cycle natural gas.
The other Big Stone II participants were Central Minnesota Municipal Power Agency, Heartland Consumers Power District and Missouri River Energy Services.
Governor Edward G. Rendell said today that the new PA Sunshine Solar Program is performing better than expected and has helped to double the state’s solar generating capacity in less than 6 months.
According to the Department of Environmental Protection, the program has reached its first incentive milestone for small business rebates — the deployment of 5 megawatts of solar power, or enough to supply electricity to about 575 average homes in the state.
The Governor said achieving the goal is good news for those small businesses interested in lowering their electricity costs through clean, renewable energy, and also for Pennsylvania’s environment and economy.
“When we enacted the PA Sunshine program, we said it was going to help reduce electricity bills for consumers, make solar energy more affordable, create economic opportunities, and help produce more renewable energy that will help improve our environment,” said Governor Rendell. “Reaching this milestone, not to mention the overwhelming response we’ve had to the program, is proof that it’s performing as intended.
“PA Sunshine is putting people to work across the state doing everything from manufacturing solar technologies to installing and maintaining them, while helping people and businesses become less dependent on the electrical grid and other fossil fuels, which saves them money. And because of the program, we’re also emerging as a national leader in developing and deploying solar technology. With the projects this program is making possible and others in the works, it is likely that we will be among the top five states for total solar capacity within the next year,” he added.
Since the program opened on May 18, the commonwealth has committed $12.5 million in 625 projects by residential and small business consumers. The projects represent at least $50 million in private investment, according to DEP.
More than 300 installers have been certified to install solar systems under the program and DEP continues to receive and accept applications.
The solar electricity capacity created by the small business program, 5 megawatts, is enough to offset 5,580 tons of carbon dioxide, 16,000 pounds of nitrogen oxide, and 77,500 pounds of sulfur oxide.
A running tally of completed projects is kept on the rebate program’s Web site so perspective applicants and solar developers are able to track the program’s progress.
“Among the small business community in particular, we are seeing a very high response rate to the program, so much so that in less than six months, we’ve more than doubled the solar capacity in Pennsylvania,” said DEP Secretary John Hanger. “As the market continues to develop, the intense competition among solar installers and greater efficiencies on the part of manufacturers will help bring down prices for solar. As such, the need for the incentive will continue to decline.”
The $100 million PA Sunshine Solar program reimburses homeowners and small business owners up to 35 percent of the purchase and installation costs of solar energy technology. In combination with federal tax credits, consumers could reduce system costs by 45 percent. It is part of the $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund Governor Rendell signed into law in July 2008.
African countries suspended meetings at U.N. climate talks Tuesday to protest what they call the low targets that industrial countries have set for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
About 50 African countries forced the cancellation of several technical meetings, saying they were only ready to discuss the pledges submitted by the wealthy countries.
Talks were under way to try to resume the closed-door meetings Tuesday, the second day of a five-day meeting to prepare a draft treaty to be adopted at a major U.N. conference next month in Copenhagen.
Delegates said unless the African boycott was settled, it could set back the timetable for concluding a Copenhagen agreement.
The African countries say they are the most vulnerable to climate change yet the least responsible for the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere that is causing global warming. A landmark 2007 U.N. report based on the work of about 2,000 scientists predicted Africa will suffer the most from drought and damage to agriculture, as well as from rising sea levels threatening coastal areas and the spread of tropical pests and diseases.
Scientists say industrial countries should reduce emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, but the targets announced so far by those countries amount to far less than the minimum.
The Maldives could achieve its aim of becoming carbon neutral well before its 2020 target, the Indian Ocean island nation’s president said Monday.
To meet the goal of making the archipelago totally free of carbon emissions, the Maldives government has been encouraging investments in power generation through wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to replace diesel.
Monday, the government inaugurated a $200 million wind farm project it said would generate 40 percent of the Maldives total energy demand of 542,000 MWh within the next 20 months.
The project is expected to reduce carbon emissions by a fifth.
“Our target is to become carbon neutral in 10 years, but with the manner things are proceeding now, my feeling is that we will be able to achieve these goals much, much earlier,” Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said after the ceremony.
The island nation off the tip of India, best-known for luxury tropical hideaways and unspoiled beaches, is among the most threatened by rising seas. The U.N. has predicted that a rise in sea levels of up to 58 cm could submerge many of its 1,192 islands by 2100.
On October 17, Nasheed and his cabinet held the world’s first underwater cabinet meeting, in a symbolic cry for help.
Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called on China to set a tougher target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions after 2020 as its part of a U.N. climate change agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen.
China, which recently overtook the United States as the world’s biggest carbon dioxide emitter, has said it will cut its C02 emissions per dollar of economic output by a “notable margin” by 2020 compared with 2005.
But it has resisted calls for quantifiable cuts which the European Union, among others, hopes will be the basis for a United Nations climate treaty to be agreed in the Danish capital in December.
“My message to China is this: raise your ambitions so that emissions peak by 2020 at the latest and then fall,” said Reinfeldt, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.
“We know that China has all the requirements for success and I hope that concrete commitments will be announced at the conference in Copenhagen,” he said in an article published in the Dagens Nyheter newspaper on Tuesday.