An inside look at new biomass plant - WFXS, MyFoxWausau - News and Weather for Wausau, WI

An inside look at new biomass plant

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ROTHSCHILD (WAOW) -

We're getting our first look at a new biomass plant in Rothschild. The plant is set to open by the end of the year. But on Thursday, project leaders opened up the site for an inside look at how it's coming along.

For two years construction at Rothschild's Biomass Plant has been in full swing. When it's finished the $255 million dollar project will be one of the largest biomass plants in the state.

"We're on time, we're on budget," CEO of We Energies, Gale Klappa said.

It started in 2009. The state required Wisconsin utilities to start generating 10% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015. That's why We Energies partnered with Domtar to build the plant.

"This project has been built to not only provide electricity to We Energy in a renewable form, but as a steam supply to Domtar," Terry Carroll, Asset Manager for We Energies said.

But what exactly is biomass? Project leaders say it's much like mulch. It's made up of parts of trees, like bark or the trunk, after it's been chopped up. When the plant is fully functional, biomass and the energy produced will be enough to run the entire mill.

"The biomass is burned in the boiler, then the boiler produces high pressure steam. The steam turns a turbine which drives the generator to produce electricity," Carroll explains.

Energy officials say the project has created hundreds of new construction jobs.

"With the wood waste that we'll be purchasing to fuel the plant it should create about 150 jobs in the logging and transportation industries," Klappa said.

But this project was very controversial. When the project started neighbors complained, saying it would hurt the environment. But, plant leaders defend it.

"It's actually reducing emissions," Klappa said.

Project leaders say the construction of the plant is about 80% complete. But for now construction continues on this effort to save energy and build for the future.

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