Co-generation Plant Permit Appealed
Northern is moving ahead with the planning and design process for its combined heat and power co-generation plant, despite an organization’s challenge of the air-emissions permit approved by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. The Sierra Club recently filed an appeal with the EPA's Environmental Appeals Board. Whether the board dismisses the case or proceeds with a hearing, federal rules dictate that construction “be stayed” until the appeal is resolved. The facility is planned as an addition to the west side of the Ripley Heating Plant (pictured).
“This doesn’t have much impact on our timeline because we are one or two years away from beginning actual construction on the project,” said Cindy Paavola (Communications and Marketing). “By the time we’re ready to put a shovel in the ground, we are confident the issue will be resolved and we'll be able to continue to move forward."
The Sierra Club is targeting coal plant proposals across the country, but Paavola said NMU has made clear from the beginning that the intent is to use the co-generation plant as a wood-burning facility. It would be capable of burning alternative types of fuel—coal included—primarily in back-up situations to make the university less vulnerable to supply-and-demand fluctuations associated with a single fuel source. NMU administrators contacted a number of major suppliers to ensure that there would be an ample quantity of wood chips and byproducts in the Upper Peninsula to sustain the operation.
“By burning a renewable resource, the plant will be one of the cleanest in the state, aligning with both Michigan’s 21st Century Energy Plan and the governor’s Renewable Energy Initiative,” added Paavola. “It will supply electrical power to NMU and also steam for heating and cooling the campus and Marquette General Hospital. Other benefits include the creation of jobs at NMU and in the wood-processing industry and opportunities for student research in biofuel production. This would be a huge step toward making NMU a more energy-efficient campus and extending the other green practices we’ve implemented as part of our focus on sustainability.”