Dominion Virginia Power has asked the Virginia State Corporation Commission for approval to convert three Virginia electricity-generating power stations from coal to biomass. The Richmond-based subsidiary of Dominion said that conversions of stations in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County would increase the company’s renewable generation capacity by more than 150 megawatts, enough to power 37,500 homes.
According to the company, the switch to biomass — in this case, using primarily waste wood left over from regional timber operations — would reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate emissions, meeting stringent emissions standards established by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In March, the EPA proposed a new rule for emission regulations for coal-fired plants that has prompted some plants around the company to close and others to begin costly modifications.
For Dominion, the switch also would help the company’s commitment to have 15 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by 2025. “The biomass conversions will benefit our customers, the environment and the state’s economy,“ David A. Christian, CEO of Dominion Generation, said in a statement. “The converted units will provide low-cost, renewable, base-load energy, while promoting economic development through the use of a locally produced fuel.“
Dominion said the cost of converting the stations would be about $165 million, or $55 million per station. The company is requesting an initial annual rate increase of 14 cents to the monthly bill of a typical 1,000 kilowatt-hour per month residential customer, effective April 1, 2012. Rate adjustment clauses allow utilities to collect financing costs over time as projects begin, lessening the larger rate impact that could occur when power stations go into service. The conversions would be complete by the end of 2013.
Dominion noted that the statewide economic benefit of converting the stations is estimated to be more than $120 million annually when compared to continued operations on coal, including the creation of more than 300 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries. The conversions also are expected to create approximately 160 jobs during the construction period.
The company Monday also filed its annual updates and rate adjustment requests for Bear Garden Power Station, which began commercial operation in May in Buckingham County, and the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center in Wise County. The new coal-fired plant is more than 88 percent complete and remains on schedule for a summer 2012 startup. The company has requested an increase in the existing rate adjustment clauses of $1.17 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours — 10 cents for Bear Garden and $1.07 for Virginia City.