Alliant touts Cassville plant; intervenors respond

Posted on March 26, 2008. Filed under: Biomass, Coal, Generation Plants, Wind |

The Wisconsin State Journal ran an opinion piece by Barbara Swan, president of Alliant Energy ‘s Wisconsin Power & Light Company. Here’s an excerpt:

For us, innovation starts in Cassville. Rather than depend solely on traditional fuels like coal, the new, state-of-the-art plant will have the flexibility to also burn hay from Wisconsin fields (switchgrass), leftover corn stalks (stover) and waste wood — all harvested locally.

Our early tests reveal switchgrass and others are a cleaner-burning alternative to coal, which is why we are investing in technology that will allow us to reduce our reliance on coal at Cassville and replace it with renewable fuels. This will dramatically reduce harmful emissions.This investment also will provide Wisconsin farmers and foresters new markets, an ecologically friendly crop and better land and forest management practices.

Michael Vickerman for RENEW and Ryan Schryver for Clean Wisconsin submitted a response to the newspaper:

The year 2007 was not kind to the coal industry and 2008 appears to be more of the same steady stream of bad news for companies wishing to build new coal plants. Public opposition and financial problems have continued to plague projects in every corner of the country. Perhaps that explains Alliant Energy’s eagerness to greenwash its proposed coal plant in Cassville as a “flex fuel” or “biomass-ready” plant (in a guest column in the WSJ, March 18).

But of the 300 megawatts of new capacity that Alliant seeks to build, 90% of it would be dedicated entirely to coal, the dirtiest source of power available. The fuel flexibility would only apply to the remaining 10% of the plant, and even that is hypothetical. There is no guarantee that the plant would ever burn any other fuels besides coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming.

The inefficient design of Alliant’s plant ensures that only one-third of the energy in the coal and biomass is converted into electricity. The other two-thirds will go up the stack as exhaust heat and pollution. This new coal plant would be no more efficient than the existing Cassville plant built more than 40 years ago.The “flex fuel” concept that Alliant is peddling is simply a smokescreen meant to distract us from the dirty reality of their old-technology coal plant. While the technology Alliant has chosen may allow them to burn small amounts of biomass, it also will have the highest rates of global warming pollution of any technology available. In fact, the technology Alliant proposes to use is so inefficient that the utility would have to burn nearly 25% biomass to have the same rates of global warming pollution as other coal plants burning 100% coal in Wisconsin today.


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