The Future of FutureGen

Update: The FutureGen Alliance, the industry group behind the “clean coal” project just named Mattoon, Ill. as the site for the plant. The release says that the group used “over 120 different factors in the general areas of cost, risks to cost and schedule, and benefits in making the final selection.” The Houston Chronicle quotes Mike Mudd, CEO of the FutureGen Alliance, as saying the major reasons for Mattoon’s selection were “clear legal title to the power plant site, a secure water source and onsite carbon sequestration.”

Coal is both the world’s biggest source of dirty energy and potentially the biggest opportunity for the cleantech industry. While there is a lot of skepticism over so-called “clean coal” technologies, which look to capture and store carbon emissions, a major government and industry initiative is about to take a small step closer to testing some of that controversial and cutting-edge technology. FutureGen, a $1.5 billion clean coal project headed up by the federal government and private power companies, will announce the location of its cleaner power plant as early as Tuesday.

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The FutureGen Alliance will choose among four sites — Mattoon and Tuscola in Illinois, and Odessa and Jewett in Texas. State officials in Illinois and Texas have been scrambling all over themselves in a last-ditch effort to win the bid and the investment to bring the clean plant to their state.

Illinois Governor Blagojevich put out a release Sunday night saying state officials have been working on securing the plant in either Matoon or Tuscola for the past four years,
The Chicago Sun-Times reports, while The Chicago Tribune quotes Texas FutureGen coordinator Scott Tinker as bragging that the contest is “Game over,” after Texas put together a nearly $1 billion financial incentive package to entice the project’s coordinators. We’re not sure which state is closer, but we’ll find out soon enough.

Whichever state wins will be home to a first-of-its-kind “clean coal” plant that uses coal gasification and technology to capture and store carbon emissions underground. The plant will also produce hydrogen on a commercial scale, for applications like fuel cells. While the plant won’t be up and running for years to come, in 2008 the project will solicit bids from equipment makers, which could offer a boost for a variety of cleantech startups.

If you want to watch the Futuregen Alliance announce the site on Tuesday, check out the webcast at 10AM Eastern.

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