Milwaukee Coal Plant Switching to Gas

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 @ 02:02 PM gHale

Downtown Milwaukee will soon see an improvement in air quality as We Energies’ Valley Power Plant, situated in the heart of the city, plans to make the switch from coal to natural gas.

In response to We Energies’ application for the switch, filed in April 2013, the Public Service Commission gave the company the go-ahead Friday to begin its conversion at the Milwaukee power plant, which has been in operation since 1969. The changeover will take place in two parts, one turbine at a time, said Barry McNulty, spokesperson for We Energies.

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“The plant has two turbines, and we can’t go without one of those in operation through this coming winter so we’ll have to do one at a time,” McNulty said, adding the project should be ready by early 2016.

McNulty said the switch was a business decision. Environmental concerns were not the “driving motivation” for the switch, he said.

The Valley Power Plant supplies 280 megawatts of electricity to surrounding businesses and residences in downtown Milwaukee and steam that 400 local customers used for heating, laundry, sterilization and food processing, according to We Energies’ website.

As the only coal burning plant in the state without modern pollution controls, the Valley Power Plant does emit high levels of mercury, smog and soot into the air surrounding the plant, a statement from environmental group Clean Wisconsin said.

Milwaukee has repeatedly received an “F” grade for its high number of unhealthy air days by the American Lung Association, the statement said.

We Energies’ overall company emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and mercury decreased by 80 percent since 2000, and this conversion is another step environmentally, according to a statement released by We Energies.

These changes will benefit the environment by cutting emissions without drastically affecting the plants function, McNulty said. Valley Power Plant will continue to produce 280 megawatts of power following the conversion, he said.

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