Dominion plans to convert three coal-fired stations to biomass

Source: Dominion Virginia Power

Dominion Virginia Power, a subsidiary of Dominion (NYSE:D), is planning to convert three Virginia  coal-fired power stations to biomass, a renewable energy source. The conversions would provide environmental and customer benefits and generate up to $350 million for their local economies over the next 30 years.

The power stations in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County are identical and went into operation in 1992. If the conversions are approved by local governments, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Corporation Commission, they could begin burning biomass in 2013. 

The total economic impact over the 30-year life of the stations would be more than $350 million, including $30 million in local taxes, $180 million for the creation of more than 300 hundred jobs in the forestry and trucking industries and about $120 million paid to the 90 employees who would work at the stations. 

The fuel switch would reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate emissions, and all of the stations would meet stringent new emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Dominion Generation CEO David Christian said, "Our proposal to convert these units from coal to biomass provides customers with economical electricity, delivers environmental benefits and takes advantage of a renewable, low-cost fuel source." 

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said, "Conversion of these units to biomass creates jobs and generates tax revenues in a manner that will have a positive impact on the environment. The majority of the biomass product being used – wood slash – is typically left on the ground after timber or logging operations are complete. So, the state is now better utilizing a product that would normally go to waste. The projects are reflective of the 'all of the above' approach we need to take when it comes to energy production in the Commonwealth. They are essential to expanding our alternative energy portfolio and closing our import gap, not to mention creating good jobs here in the Commonwealth." 

Dominion plans to meet the state's voluntary Renewable Portfolio Standard, which calls for 15 percent of the company's generation to be from renewable resources by 2025. The company successfully met the 2010 milestone of 4 percent. 

Each of these units can currently produce 63 megawatts of electricity of peaking power, running only when demand is at its highest. When converted, they would generate 50 megawatts each, but operate essentially all of the time. Together, these stations would provide electricity to about 37,500 homes. 

The stations would obtain most of their fuel from the waste wood left from timbering operations and would comply with a Virginia law regulating the use of biomass for electric generation. Dominion will also be adhering to its allocated cap of 1.11 million tons per year of green wood chips and related tree materials.

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