Industries Energy/Green

Dominion Virginia Power plans to convert three coal-fired power stations to biomass

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Dominion Virginia Power, a subsidiary of Richmond-based Dominion Resources,  plans to convert three coal-fired power stations to biomass.

Company officials said the conversion of the power stations in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County would reduce pollution while generating up to $350 million for their local economies during the next 30 years.

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

The estimated economic impact of the conversions during the next 30 years includes $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 90 power station employees.

The Dominion officials said using biomass instead of coal would reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate emissions.

“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,” said Gov. Bob McDonnell. “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.”

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.

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