State Journal Register

 July 26, 2006

 Illinois a winner in FutureGen competition

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON - Illinois, along with Texas, was the big preliminary winner in a national competition to land the world's first near-zero-emissions coal-burning power plant.

The FutureGen Alliance, a non-profit organization made up of some of the world's leading energy companies, announced Tuesday it chose sites in Mattoon and Tuscola, Ill., and Jewett and Odessa, Texas, as finalists for the experimental facility.

Illinois, which had more entrants than any other state - with a total of four - also saw two of its sites eliminated, along with six others from Ohio, Kentucky, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Proposals in Effingham and Marshall, Ill., failed to make the short list. FutureGen officials said the finalist sites share advantages such as proximity to electrical transmission lines, thick sandstone for the storage of wastes generated by energy production and plentiful land.

The four will compete over the next year for the grand prize - selection as the location for a model coal-burning plant that is scheduled to open in 2012 and would release virtually no greenhouse gases or pollutants.

The alliance is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy to design and build the facility.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich praised the selection, which he said shows that "Illinois coal can meet our future energy demands using cutting-edge technology that protects our environment and puts more people to work."

"We have the coal, the geology and the strong support on the federal, state and local level for brining the world's cleanest coal plant to Illinois," he said. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Collinsville, said he was "thrilled that Illinois landed two of the final four sites."

A member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Shimkus said he has been working to locate the facility in Illinois since President Bush introduced the project in 2003.

The alliance said the Mattoon and Tuscola proposals, in addition to meeting basic requirements, demonstrated the ability to obtain rights of way for electrical transmission lines, water, gas and carbon dioxide pipelines in a timely manner. The Effingham site was actually the fourth highest scorer. But it was eliminated because of its relatively small size - 270 acres - and the long, narrow configuration of the site, the alliance said in a report released Tuesday night. The Marshall site drew low scores for proximity to sensitive areas, distance to transmission lines and other measures.

State officials said the Illinois sites that failed to make the cut still may benefit because they have laid the groundwork to attract successors to the FutureGen project.

FutureGen officials said many of the competing sites that did not meet the "stringent" standards for the initial experimental plant might qualify for similar minimal-emission plants in the future.

Officials said even if an Illinois site does not emerge as the choice, the state would benefit because it is a leading coal producer and user. The FutureGen plant will be designed to burn both Eastern and Western types of coal.

Mike Mudd, chief executive officer of the alliance, insisted politics played no part in the decision, which he said was based on an evaluation using almost 100 technical criteria.