Coal facility would showcase new technology

ILLINOIS - Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed on as a supporter of the nation's first ultra-clean coal-fired power plant sought for Illinois.

A critical component of the project, known as FutureGen, involves storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas released by coal-fired power plants into the atmosphere, deep underground. The coal would be converted into a gas and then into hydrogen, for potential use in powering fuel cells.

Illinois and Texas are vying to host the $1.5 billion FutureGen project, a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Energy and a consortium of coal producers and electric utilities. The project's goal is to test and show that next-generation coal technology will be ready to help coal-fired power plants curb their contribution to global warming.

The FutureGen Industrial Alliance expects to announce next month whether the project, a 275-megawatt power plant, will be built in Illinois or Texas. The alliance hopes to begin construction in 2009 and begin operating the plant in 2012.

The announcement came on the eve of the Midwestern Energy Security and Climate Protection Summit, which is already underway at the Pfister Hotel. Gov. Doyle's office announced that six of the 12 governors in the Midwestern Governors Association are expected to attend the conference, along with the Premier of Manitoba.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a co-host of the conference.

Other governors expected to attend are M. Michael Rounds of South Dakota, Chester J. Culver of Iowa, and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois was tentatively planning to come, the governor's office said. The conference is expected to result in the signing of a regional greenhouse gas accord that may be modeled on similar efforts in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states and on the West Coast.

A regional solution may be needed to address the need to store carbon dioxide after it's released from power plants, energy and geology experts say, because Wisconsin is among states that don't have any geologic formations that are deemed suitable for underground storage.

But Illinois does. As a result, energy planners in Wisconsin see the need to lay groundwork for carbon dioxide from Wisconsin's coal plants to be shipped one day via pipeline to Illinois, where it could be stored underground.

"Projects like FutureGen create an exhilarating opportunity for new regionalism," Doyle said in a letter to Blagojevich. "In a carbon-constrained world, we here in Wisconsin understand the importance of developing cleaner coal technology not only for our energy, environmental and economic future, but the future of the Midwest.

"Carbon capture and storage opportunities and other technology development that would move forward at Illinois' FutureGen site will be very beneficial to utilities and ratepayers throughout the region."

Doyle's support joins that of Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana in backing the Illinois FutureGen bid.

Two Illinois towns are finalists for the FutureGen projects, along with two towns in Texas.


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