Northern Wisconsin Lumber Mills Harness Biomass for Efficient Energy Generation

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Two Northern Wisconsin lumber mills are looking forward to generating their own energy for drying kilns much more efficiently based on the installation of modern biomass boiler systems to provide the needed steam.

Nicolet Hardwoods Corporation installed a $ 4 million biomass energy facility including a new Hurst boiler to provide the heat for five drying kilns in Laona. The new system will replace an existing 100-year-old one and will do the needed work more than four times as efficiently, according to the project’s leaders.

The boiler uses waste products from the mill operation including sawdust, chips, and bark as fuel.

The project was supported by federal and state grant funding. Sources include USDA- Rural Energy America Program, USFS Wood Innovation Grants, USFS Community Wood Grant, and WDNR State Wood Energy Team.

A similar upgrade in the biomass energy system at Kretz Lumber Company in Antigo is also yielding greater efficiency in driving the company’s 16 kilns. The replacement boiler, a 500 horsepower unit, replaces its wood drying function, but will also provide steam to heat the manufacturing buildings and generate needed electricity for the plant.

The Kretz project also received grant support from the USFS Wood Innovation Grants Program and state funding from the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin (EIGP) Wisconsin and the Focus on Energy project.

The federal Rural Energy America Program offers extensive grant and loan guarantee possibilities including for biomass energy systems. The loan guarantees can cover up to 75% of a project’s cost and grants of up to $1 million are available through a competitive grant funding program.

There are four quarterly deadlines for applications starting on December 31, 2023. More information is available here: Link

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