Wisconsin’s CHP plant fires up

Biomass Magazine


After a year of development, the Forest Country Potawatomi Community’s combined-heat-and-power biogas plant in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley has come on line, with an official grand opening held on Oct. 28.

The 2-megawatt (MW) FCPC Renewable Generation facility is located near the Potawatomi Bingo Casino on tribal land. Feedstocks for the two 1.3 million-gallon digester tanks are being sourced from a variety of local food producers, and power produced is being sold to WE Energies under a 15-year power purchase agreement. Generated heat is being used to provide hot water and heating to the casino.

The $20 million project received funding from the U.S. DOE and Wisconsin-based Focus on Energy. It marks completion of the fourth food waste-to-energy project of project manager and EPC contractor Miron Construction, according to Jason Rieth, industrial project executive. However, the company has been involved in numerous other biogas projects, mainly in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Although every project has its own unique characteristics and challenges, one in particular stood out in this case, according to Rieth. “The area where this particular property is located was previously deemed undevelopable,” he said. “People claimed that it was basically waste land. The whole area has contaminated soil, so methane barriers had to be placed under the foundations, a methane venting system installed in the building—lots of extra maneuvering that enabled us to do something that we were told wasn’t possible, and we’re proud of that.”

Another challenge was working within the confines of the small piece of land the project is located on. “It’s a compact site, right next to the employee parking lot of the casino, so we basically did all of the work on about two acres of land,” Rieth said.

Dan Goymerac, vice president of industrial business development, added that an odor control system was put into place to ensure there was no objectionable odor beyond property borders, as the location is near downtown Milwaukee.

The 38,000-square-foot-facility was designed to match the style of the older buildings in the Menomonee Valley, according to Rieth. “They wanted anything new to have a certain look to it, so we went through some pains to match [the look] when we done.”

Deadline for completion of the project was Nov. 1, which led to a big push from August to October, Rieth said. All parties worked together to meet deadlines, including Rockwell Automation, which manufactured motor controls for the facility; General Electric Waukesha Gas Engines, which delivered its two 1-MW internal combustion biogas engines; Symbiont Inc., which conducted plant engineering; Titus Energy , which performed predevelopment work and other consulting services, and Greenfire Management Services LLC , which provided representative consulting services.

As for how the future looks for the biogas energy development, Rieth said the company is involved in two projects going into 2014, both of which are electrical generation projects and one of which will be self-generating. “There are some products that may be more attractive than electricity, such as pipeline-quality gas or bioCNG, but power has traditionally been where the subsidies are,” he said. “The future is bright, but whether a project makes sense is dependent on a few things—what regulations and incentives require, and also the price of electricity in the region. Though it depends on who owns the project and what their goals are, it’s a large capital investment to build a biogas plant, so there has to be a compelling reason for somebody to do it.”

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