This article is reprinted with permission from ECT.coop.
Illinois’s Jo-Carroll Energy hopes to begin construction on an 80-MW biomass plant later this year that will burn wood waste, switchgrass, and corn stover to make electricity. The $140 million facility will be built near the Mississippi River town of Savannah.
Jo-Carroll Energy, based in nearby Elizabeth, sees the generating station as part of a long-term power supply solution for a 75-MW load—13,000 residential and business accounts the co-op acquired last year from investor-owned utility Interstate Power & Light. Dairyland Power Cooperative in La Crosse, Wis., supplies wholesale power for the co-op’s original 6,700 members.
“The biomass plant will be an important part of our energy supply portfolio,” notes Jo-Carroll Energy CEO Michael Hastings. “We hope that it will serve as a base for relatively stable energy prices for the next 20 years.”
The generation should also help reduce the co-op’s carbon footprint. Although biomass electricity production creates carbon dioxide emissions, organic fuels like crops and trees absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, effectively offsetting most of the greenhouse gas that ends up in the atmosphere.
The Jo-Carroll Energy plant will consume 80 percent to 85 percent waste wood from Chicago and its suburbs—yard and building construction materials that would otherwise end up in landfills, according to Hastings. Switchgrass and corn stover (mostly stalks and leaves) making up the rest of the feedstock will come from farms within a 60-mile radius of the facility. In addition, Jo-Carroll Energy will help its farmer-members form a new biomass marketing co-op.
“We are exploring every possible funding scenario for the plant,” Hastings confirms, which could include equity stakes by other electric co-ops. “Because we have a vested interest in the communities we serve, we are committed to building a project that meets our growing energy needs, promotes long-term rate stability, creates good-paying jobs, adds to the local tax base, and supports local agriculture in a sustainable, environmentally responsible fashion.”
Reprinted with permission from RE Magazine (January 2008).