No joke – Dominion Resources converting 3 coal plants to burn biomass
Moving to reduce its often controversial coal footprint, Dominion Virginia Power in the U.S. says it will convert three of its coal-fired generating plants to burn wood waste in biomass plants that qualify as renewable sources of electricity.
Virginia Power will burn the residue of branches and limbs left on the ground after a forest’s trees have been harvested for timber. While combustion is still the company’s M.O. and falls short of deploying cleaner wind or solar, the commitment to biomass in a state without a renewable electricity requirement is notable for the jobs it will create as well as the net environmental and economic benefits. So notable in fact that some Dominion critics thought it might have been an April Fool’s joke.
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 said it met the 2010 voluntary target of 4 percent. Nothing to brag about. But better than looking the other way.
The generating plants being converted — in Hopewell, Altavista and Southampton County — are virtually identical and went into operation in 1992. If the conversions are approved by local governments, the state Department of Environmental Quality and the State Corporation Commission, they could begin burning biomass in 2013. Virginia Power already operates the state’s largest biomass plant near Hurt
The conversions , the company asserts, will provide environmental and customer benefits and generate up to $350 million for their local economies during the next 30 years.. The three plants currently provide about 65 megawatts each of peaking power. Following the conversion, the plants are expected to provide 50 megawatts each of baseload power.