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Milwaukee medical center plans to buy power plant, convert to natural gas

Milwaukee County Regional Medical Center is negotiating to buy a coal-burning power plant currently owned by We Energies in Wauwatosa, and plans to convert it to natural gas before the 2015 heating season, reports the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

“We will be putting up a transition boiler,” said Bob Simi, executive director of the medical center. “What’s notable about that is it will take the coal production offline, and it will become a gas-fired plant — certainly much more sustainable from a green energy standpoint.”

The consortium of health care institutions, including Froedtert and Children’s hospitals, depends on the plant to produce steam, which is utilized for heating and cooling its campus buildings.

The proposed sale of the power plant would need approval from the state Public Service Commission.

We Energies disclosed in its annual report filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission that the Milwaukee County plant is subject to federal air pollution standards that take effect next year. The Environmental Protection Agency rule “imposes stringent limitations on numerous hazardous air pollutants from large boilers,” including the three coal-fired boilers at the Milwaukee County Power Plant, the filing says. The deadline for compliance is Jan. 31, but the utility may be eligible for a one-year extension, We Energies said.

Simi says the medical center wants to move quickly on the conversion project “in order to be in accordance with EPA standards, but also to allow us to get up and running before the cold season starts next winter.”