From Site Selection magazine, March 2008
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Is FutureGen
In Illinois' Future?

The Department of Energy puts a mega-project in mega-limbo.
Michael J. Mudd (right) is CEO of the FutureGen Alliance. The FutureGen plant, pictured in a rendering, faces an uncertain future.
llinois leaders remain optimistic that Mattoon, the self-proclaimed "Bagel Capital of the World" and home of the first Burger King, will one day be better known as home of FutureGen, the world's first coal-fueled, near-zero-emissions power plant. But an abrupt change of plans by the U.S. Dept. of Energy has at least delayed the project, currently estimated to cost US$1.8 billion.
   The Dept. of Energy (DOE) and the Bush Administration pulled support from the project on Jan. 30 in favor of a restructured approach that could result in multiple clean coal plants. The FutureGen Alliance, a group of coal and utility companies formed to partner with the DOE on the project, vows to move forward, hoping that Congress will ultimately look favorably on FutureGen.
   "In spite of this, the alliance plans on proceeding and keeping things on track," says Michael J. Mudd, CEO of the FutureGen Alliance. "It's too important to our country not to proceed. It's just that simple. With all the hard work of the people in Illinois, and they pull the plug at the last minute, that can be damaging for future relationships. We've got to find a way to keep this moving ahead, and we will."
   On Dec. 18, after a rigorous site review process, Mattoon was selected over three competing locations by the FutureGen Alliance, which is developing the facility for the DOE. The Mattoon FutureGen facility would be built on 444 acres (180 hectares) of land northwest of the city. The Alliance also considered sites in Tuscola, Ill., and Odessa and Jewett, Texas.
   Mudd says the selection of Mattoon was done devoid of politics and was based solely on objective site selection criteria.
   "The Illinois site was chosen based on the merits of the site and on the offering there rather than on political consideration. That's a testimony to the Illinois team. The whole process used in Illinois and the providing of the necessary data on the sites was a very important part of why Illinois was chosen."
   Mudd concedes that even if Congress or the next administration pushes FutureGen forward, the schedule, which at one time called for construction of the plant to begin in 2009, has been delayed.
   "There is a great need to reduce CO2 emissions," Mudd says. "Unless we can develop and improve the technology to remove CO2 emissions from coal, it will be difficult for us to continue to use coal, which fuels better than half of the electricity in our country. It's critical not only to Illinois, but to the coal industry throughout the country."
   Mudd says the project is further along than any other such project in the world to integrate IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle) with 90 percent carbon capture and sequestration in deep saline geologic formations while generating electricity using a first-of-a-kind hydrogen turbine. He says the Mattoon site has all of the attributes required to be successful, including a secure water source and the ability to inject CO2 on-site, eliminating the need for an extended offsite pipeline.

SIU Study Touts Economic Benefits
   A study conducted by Ira Altman, an assistant professor at Southern Illinois University, says the coal gasification facility would offer a long list of economic benefits including:
   • a $135-million increase in statewide economic output from facility operation;
   • a $91-million increase in statewide value added from facility operation;
   • a $258-million increase in statewide economic output from construction;
   • an $85-million increase in local economic output.

   "The 150 permanent jobs is the most important thing to focus on, and the multiplier effect will not quite double that." Altman says. "The number of construction jobs is hard to estimate. The big question is where the coal will come from. If it is mainly from Illinois, then we are looking at a lot bigger impact than what is in the report."
   Altman says FutureGen would especially have a major impact on Mattoon, a town of about 18,000, whose largest employer is the Lender's bagel plant.
   Jack Lavin, director of the Illinois Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, says FutureGen may have a better fate in Congress.
   "We are going to keep fighting," Lavin says.
Jack Lavin is director of the Illinois Dept. of Commerce & Economic Opportunity.
"Congress appropriates the money, and we think we will prevail in the Congress. This project is too important not to move forward. The most important environmental issue is to address global warming. The FutureGen project is not only a project that is ready to go now – we need to move forward with a sense of urgency."
   The lobbying is proceeding across several fronts. Following the DOE's decision, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sent a letter to all presidential candidates, asking them to support FutureGen.

Alliance Digs In
   The FutureGen Alliance Board of Directors held a two-day summit at the Mattoon site Feb. 7-8 and reaffirmed its intent to proceed with the facility, saying the project remains in the public's best interest.
   Paul Thompson, chairman of the Alliance board, announced the Alliance's intention to work with the White House, Congress, the DOE, the Illinois Congressional delegation and other stakeholders to advance the project. The Illinois delegation called on President George W. Bush to move FutureGen forward despite the objections of Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman.
   Bodman's decision to pursue alternatives to FutureGen spurred some tough talk by delegation members, especially U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin.
   "In 25 years on Capital Hill, I have never witnessed such a cruel deception," Durbin said in a release to the media. "For five years, the Department of Energy has urged our state and others to pursue, at great expense and sacrifice, this critically important energy project. When the City of Mattoon, Illinois, was chosen over possible locations in Texas, the Secretary of Energy set out to kill FutureGen."
   The announcement of Mattoon as the FutureGen site spurred considerable interest, much of it from international companies. Angela Griffin, who heads Coles Together, the local economic development agency, says calls came in from Europe, China and South America.
   "There has been interest from technology companies and research firms and some interest from manufacturing," Griffin says. "We see the potential for a cluster developing here. We also have another IGCC plant looking at the county that would use another process."
   That plant is the Illinois Clean Fuels project planned by Portland, Ore.-based American Clean Coal Fuels for the Oakland area. If built, it would convert approximately 4.3 million tons per year of Illinois coal sourced from a new mine and biomass sourced from waste or agricultural sources into approximately
The Twin Groves wind farm, east of Bloomington, may eventually be the largest in the U.S.
400 million gallons per year of biodegradable synthetic diesel fuel and jet fuel. Plans call for that project to be operational by 2012.

The Windy State
   As the coal scene sorts itself out, a bevy of renewable energy projects are progressing across Illinois. Among them is one of the nation's largest wind farms. Twin Groves Wind Farm in McLean County, east of Bloomington, is being developed by Horizon Wind Energy.
   Construction on the $750-million, 240-turbine project was completed in February. The wind farm will produce 396 MW and will supply the power needs of about 120,000 homes. The wind farm is in an area of hills and ridges that are ideal for wind energy development, according to Horizon.
   But Twin Groves, already the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi and the third largest in the U.S., may grow much larger. Horizon plans to put up some test towers to gauge the potential for an expansion that could make Twin Groves the largest U.S. wind farm.
   "Depending on the data, we could be adding as much as 300 to 350 MW," says Bill Whitlock, Horizon's director of development in the Great Lakes region. "Depending on the technology, the number of wind towers would range from 175 to 212. Illinois is certainly one of the hottest markets in development in the states right now."
   Horizon also has major wind farms planned for the Pontiac area and for Tazewell County, both in Illinois. Horizon is owned by Portuguese power company Energias de Portugal, which acquired the company in 2007.

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