Northern Michigan University’s request to void the State of Michigan permit for its proposed cogeneration heating and steam plant has been granted by the Department of Environmental Quality. The permit, which was issued May 12, 2008, would have enabled NMU to burn coal as a backup fuel source in the proposed multi-fuel steam and heating plant, although the primary fuel source was to be wood and wood byproducts. Construction on cogeneration plant had not started, in part, due to a stay on the DEQ permit by the Sierra Club, which opposes the burning of coal. “Our intent from day one of this project has been to burn wood and wood byproducts, using coal only as a backup,” said Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration, who oversees the university’s facilities unit. “Since receiving the permit, we’ve been exploring alternative wood storage and supply options to address weather-related issues, but we believe we have found ways to meet our demand throughout the year.” Leach said NMU is working on a permit application that would allow wood to be the sole fuel source, and is seeking state and federal agencies to secure funding for the project. “We believe, once built, the cogeneration plant will result in significant cost savings to NMU and further the university’s sustainability efforts,” said Leach. “We hope that if we are granted the new permit, this project may qualify for some American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, and we’d like to pursue those potential funding opportunities.” The proposed plant would provide heat and steam to the NMU campus, and steam to neighboring Marquette General Hospital. Plans for the facility include a research wing where NMU students can study future biomass fuels.
Director of Communications