An ongoing study in western Wisconsin on how plausible, cost-effective, and profitable woody biomass could be for generating power. David Jenkins is with the Wisconsin Office of Energy Independence, which is helping to fund the study. Noting Wisconsin will never have a coal mine, he says it’s better to spend money for power locally. But, Jenkins says, it must also be cost effective. “We can’t drive the price of electricity up to the point where it becomes burden for business . . . and the same farmers who are growing the stuff,” says Jenkins.
Jenkins says the point is to help move Wisconsin to renewable energy sources, but what the carbon footprint of burning biomass for energy? “If you’re doing it sustainably then you plant new trees or grow new crops that take up that carbon dioxide that was released from the combustion of the previous month or the previous year.”
Jenkins says it’s close to carbon neutral – 80 to 90 percent. He says though this study is specific to the French Island power plant in La Crosse, there are around 50 small power plants around the state that could be converted to burn biomass. He’s hoping the study, examining an area roughly 50 miles around West Salem, will have results by this fall.