By MICHAEL BURKE
The Journal Times, Racine
CALEDONIA, Wis. (AP) — CalStar Products Inc., the start-up company that turns We Energies fly ash into architectural bricks and pavers, is now in production.
Company officials publicly celebrated that fact last week at CalStar. According to the company conceived in Silicon Valley, its bricks and pavers:
— Use 40 percent recycled content.
— Emit 85 percent less carbon dioxide than standard kiln-fired bricks.
— Require 85 percent less energy to manufacture.
“We’re going to address the global warming issue,” declared Chief Executive Officer Michael Kane.
In 35 years in the construction industry, he said, “I didn’t think you could be in that industry without consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels.”
Kane appeared exultant that CalStar has been able to produce a fly ash brick that will boast the above environmental advantages and sell for “pennies.”
“I ask people from the brick industry to join us,” Kane said. “We’re not the enemy, we’re not the competition — we’re the future.”
The old methods of brick-making will fade away over time, he predicted.
CalStar opens with 12 employees, plant manager Michael Telischak said, but that number will double within a few weeks and then grow to about 35.
At peak production, the plant — inside the former Young Radiator manufacturing building — will be able to turn out at least 40 million bricks a year, Telischak said. That would be an operation of 20 hours a day, six days a week.
Touring the production facility, visitors saw how CalStar bricks are quickly formed through pressure and vibration. They’re steam-cured overnight and are then ready to be shipped and used.
The CalStar founders sought utility partners nationwide and chose We Energies.
Kristine Krause, vice president, environmental at Wisconsin Energy Corp. said the company can now build power plants as factories for the known byproducts, making those easy to use.
Wisconsin Energy has invested heavily in storage facilities to make fly ash available during the construction season, Krause said.
Kane said CalStar began with $15 million in venture capital and is in the process of securing another $15 million. The state of Wisconsin also provided $2.43 million in tax abatements.
He said CalStar plans to open six plants in the next five years, creating hundreds of direct jobs and thousands of indirect jobs.
Information from: The Journal Times, http://www.journaltimes.com