The Charter Street heating plant on the campus of the UW-Madison will switch from coal to biomass before the end of 2010.

From an announcement from Governor Doyle:

MADISON—Governor Jim Doyle announced today that a new biomass boiler will be installed at the Charter Street Heating Plant as part of his commitment to stop burning coal at state-owned heating plants on Madison’s Isthmus.

“We must move away from our dependence on coal,” Governor Doyle said. “This new project will help build the biomass market in Wisconsin, keep the money we spend on energy in the local economy and create green jobs in the area.”

The new biomass boiler will be capable of burning up to 100% biomass, everything from wood chips to switchgrass pellets, and will eventually be able to burn about 250,000 tons of biomass per year. This demand for biomass will help create and sustain a biomass market in Wisconsin and provide economic benefit for landowners, farmers and processors in the state.

With the switch to biomass, there will be 108,800 fewer tons of coal burned in the area each year and lower particulate emissions. Reducing particulate emissions by moving away from coal at the Charter Street Heating Plant is a key step in working to improve air quality in Dane County and moving the County back into attainment.

A media release from Better Environmental Solutions highlighted the importance of biomass production to southwestern Wisconsin:

“Planting switchgrass is a great crop for our highly erodible fields,” said Jim Schaefer, a Platteville area farmer. “We want create more markets for grass and other biomass crops for energy and fuels.”

Southwest Badger RC&D has been working with farmers and researchers on six switchgrass test plots and ways to collect woody biomass to restore native prairie and switchgrass and woodlands.

“The state’s demand for biomass will help farmers promote more conservation practices and give us cleaner water and reduced flooding,” said Steve Bertjens, NRCS Southwest Badger RC&D coordinator.