100-acre solar array to help power cement plant in Alpena
A Swiss-based company that owns a cement plant in Alpena is taking the next step in its effort to become a net-zero greenhouse gas operation.
Cement plants are notorious for the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to make and use their products.
“Cement production is responsible globally for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a lot for one sector,” said Melissa Carey, head of climate policy at Holcim U.S.
The corporation is going to install a 100-acre solar array to help power the plant.
“It will meet 30% of the needs of the plant upfront and together with the renewable power that we purchase off the grid, that will make Alpena 75% run on renewable energy,” Carey said, adding that it gets them part way to the company’s goal.
“Our commitment on the renewable energy side is to be fully renewable in the United States by 2030,” Carey said.
The plant also uses fuel in the process of making cement. Intense heat is needed to process the final product. Traditionally that heat comes from burning coal. Holcim recently opened a $7.4 million tire-derived fuel facility. The State of Michigan supported that effort.
In a release earlier this month, Holcim said that two of the plant’s five kilns will now be used to convert approximately 2.2 million automobile tires. The tires will be processed to create what is known as tire-derived fuel (TDF).
The Alpena Plant will use TDF to fuel approximately 10% of its thermal needs for operations. Tires produce about 25% more energy than burning coal.
Burning tire-derived fuel is controversial. Toxic chemicals including dioxin and furans can be emitted from flues, although tests have resulted in widely differing results. Zinc from shredded tires has also been found in some cases to leach into waterways, harming aquatic life.
Holcim said it will be a net-zero carbon emitter by 2050.