Dominion plans three biomass conversions

By Anna Austin | April 06, 2011

Dominion Virginia Power has announced intentions to repower three of its coal-fired power plants with biomass.

The identical power plants are located in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton County, Va., and have all been operating since 1992. Each has an electrical capacity of 63 megawatts (MW) and will produce 50 MW post-conversion, enough electricity to collectively power 37,500 homes.

Fuel for the plants will be waste wood sourced from timber operations. The company will comply with a Virginia law regulating the use of biomass for electricity, according to Dominion, adhering to its allocated cap of 1.11 million tons per year of green wood chips and related tree materials.

While Virginia provides a 2 percent return for utility investments in generating facilities using renewable energy, it has annual limits on using certain forms of biomass.

In order for the projects to move forward, approval must be gained by local governments, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Corporation Commission. If achieved, the plants could be running on biomass by 2013, according to Dominion.

Dominion expects the conversions to have a significant economic impact over the 30-year life of the stations, including $30 million in local taxes, $180 million for the creation of more than 300 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries, and about $120 million paid to the 90 power station employees.

Dominion plans to meet the state's voluntary renewable portfolio standard, which calls for 15 percent of the company's electricity generation to be generated from renewable resources by 2025. In 2010, the company was at 4 percent renewables.