Dominion Virginia Power’s Altavista power station is now running on renewable biomass as part of a previously announced plan to convert three of its coal-fired power plants in the state to burn mostly waste wood left from regional timbering operations as fuel, the energy provider said Monday.
The subsidiary of Richmond-based Dominion Resources Inc. said the other plants in Hopewell and Southampton County should be operating on biomass by the end of the year. When in operation, the three plants are expected to produce a total of 150 megawatts of renewable energy, enough electricity to power about 37,500 homes.
In 2011, the company announced plans to spend about $165 million to convert the plants in a move it said provided environmental and customer benefits. Under Virginia law, Dominion will be able to recover certain costs related to the conversions.
The fuel switch will result in a reduction of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other emissions. Dominion also said the conversions will help meet the state’s voluntary renewable energy standards, which call for 15 percent of the company’s generation to be from renewable resources by 2025.
All three identical power stations went into operation in 1992 and were acquired by Dominion in 2001. They had been used primarily to produce steam for nearby manufacturing plants and intermittently to meet the peak demand for electricity, the company said. The conversion to biomass is expected to displace 194,000 tons of coal at each station annually, based on projections of how much the plants would operate on the new fuel.
When all three conversions are complete, the facilities are estimated to have a total economic impact of more than $350 million over the 30-year life of the stations. They’ll employ a total of about 90 workers and an additional 300 forestry and trucking jobs will be needed to supply the roughly 600,000 tons of biomass that each station will use annually, the company said.
Dominion is one of the nation’s largest producers and transporters of energy and has the nation’s largest natural gas storage system. It serves retail customers in 15 states.