Plant turns infested ash
trees into electrical power
DETROIT (AP) -- A Michigan power plant is using the remains
of trees lost to a parasitic insect to produce energy.
The burning of wood chips from dead ash trees at the
Genesee Power Station in Genesee Township provides an
alternative to traditional landfills and composting, state
"We think that's a really neat use for that wood," Kendra
Anderson, regional supervisor for the Michigan Department
of Agriculture, told the Detroit Free Press.
The prospect of being able to recycle ash wood into electricity
is one good thing to emerge from the problems created
by the emerald ash borer. The insect, which apparently
came to Michigan several years ago in wood packing material
from Asia, is devastating the Detroit area's ash trees.
Six counties are under a state quarantine preventing
ash trees or logs from being moved from the area with
the hopes of halting the borer's spread. But ash wood
can be moved out of the quarantine if it is first chipped
into 1-inch pieces, a process experts say kills the insect.
A company called Mid-Michigan Recycling is transporting
some of the chipped wood to the Genesee County facility,
which has volunteered to accept ash chips from the state,
said E.P. Barrett Jr., manager of waste wood recovery
for the company.
The Genesee Power Station is one of five wood-burning
power plants in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department
of Environmental Quality, and the one nearest to the quarantined
The state hopes to get federal funding for a larger-scale,
pilot chipping and disposal operation by early next year,
said Ken Rauscher, director of the state Agriculture Department's
pesticide and plant pest management division.
Once a federal quarantine is issued -- in effect, elevating
the borer infestation to a national problem -- the state
will enter into a formal agreement with the power station
to burn some ash wood chips, Rauscher said.
Those that wind up at Genesee Power will be used to produce
electricity. Other ash chips may be burned in the Detroit
incinerator or go to compost or landfill operations, he
Agriculture Department representatives met with the Genesee
County commissioners last week to answer concerns about
the advisability of moving dead, infested ash wood into
a non-quarantined area. Another meeting for community
residents is possible, a board spokesman said.