Dominion Virginia Power converts Altavista Power Station to biomass

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Dominion Virginia Power is now fueling its Altavista Power Station with biomass. The company said in a press release that it placed the station into commercial operation on Friday — the first of three stations that will be converted from coal to biomass.

"Today marks another achievement guided by Dominion's philosophy that balanced fuel diversity — from coal to natural gas to nuclear to renewables — leads to reasonable rates that best serve the needs and interests of customers and shareholders," Dominion Generation CEO David A. Christian said in a statement.

Dominion announced plans in April 2011 to spend about $165 million to convert Altavista Power Station and two similar coal-fired stations in Hopewell and Southampton County to use biomass — primarily tree tops and branches that remain unused from timbering operations, as fuel. The conversions of the other two stations are on schedule, and they should be in commercial operation before the end of 2013.

Dominion said it acquired the three power stations in 2001. They had been in operation since 1992 and were used primarily to produce steam for nearby manufacturing plants and intermittently to meet the peak demand for electricity. With the biomass conversions, plans are for the three 51-megawatt power stations to operate continuously, providing enough electricity to serve 12,500 households.

According to the company, the conversions will result in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury. In addition, the three biomass power stations will help Dominion Virginia Power meet Virginia's voluntary renewable energy goal of 15 percent by 2025.

Altavista Power Station will employ 31 with a total annual payroll of nearly $3 million. Another 100 forestry and trucking jobs will be needed to supply the roughly 600,000 tons of biomass that the station will use every year. Initial property tax payments to Altavista and Campbell County will total about $590,000 annually.

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