Biomass gets famous window-maker
out of a logjam
Wood-fired steam, warm water recovery
replace coal-fired predecessor
By Kate Bachman, Editor
As you cross the bridge over the St. Croix River on I-94 from Hudson, Wis., to Minnesota and head north on Route 95 along the river at night, you will see an imposing smokestack with red lights looming eerily in the distance.
The smokestack belongs to an Xcel Energy coal-fired electricity plant in Bayport, Minn. Until a few years ago, the Xcel
plant was the source of steam for the heating and cooling
needs of the 65-acre headquarters and main manufacturing
plant of Andersen Corp. In fact, piping runs directly from the
energy facility to the adjacent window manufacturer’s plant.
Then, in February 2005, Xcel notified Andersen that it
could no longer supply the steam and that the manufacturer
would need to find a new power source by April 2007.
That put the company in a bit of a jam.
The relatively abrupt halt of the company’s steam source did
not promote panic among the company’s leadership. After
all, Andersen is a 108-year-old company. It has been in jams
before. In fact, America’s largest window manufacturer was
borne of a logjam. Literally.
In 1903 a mileslong logjam occurred on the St. Croix River
that deadlocked all movement of the thousands of logs felled
from the forests nearby that were on their way to lumber
mills to become the building materials of future homes and
businesses. An enterprising young man named Hans Andersen saw this as an opportunity and he seized it.
A mathematician, Andersen calculated how many and
which logs needed to be removed to unwedge the jam. He offered to purchase the troublesome logs and remove them a
few miles upstream from their original sawmill destinations.
With the newly acquired wood, he opened his own sawmill,
which was the precursor to today’s window and door manufacturing plant—which still houses its own lumber milling
Just as Hans Andersen viewed the logjam as an opportunity, his successors viewed the steam source loss as an
opportunity to find a more energy-efficient alternative and to
eliminate reliance on coal-based steam.
As a result, the company built a new wood-fired boiler
steam-generating plant and heat recovery system that provides all of the company’s steam and thermal demand for
the 2.5-million-square-foot facility and powers some of its
manufacturing equipment (see Figure 1).
With both the steam plant and the heat recovery systems,
the manufacturer is using already-available resources.
The feedstock for the biomass steam plant is Andersen’s
own sawdust and wood waste byproducts, reclaimed from its
on-site milling operations.
The warm water recovery system accesses warm discharge water from the Xcel power plant.
The new steam plant became fully operational in April
2007 and has been hugely successful, garnering the company a number of awards along the way. But getting to that
point was no log ride.
“When we received notice, we stepped back and said, ‘All
right, this is inevitable; what are we going to do?’ said Chuck
LeRoux, director, corporate safety, security, and environmental management for Andersen.
One option the company could have acted on was to re-