Biomass power conversion finished at Dominion coal power plant

The plants will burn tree tops, branches, and other waste lumber from timbering operations as fuel

Dominion Virginia Power, a unit of Dominion, completed the conversion of its Altavista Power Station to produce electric power by burning biomass. The utility company plans to convert three of its coal-fired power plants into biomass facilities.

Dominion announced in April 2011 its plans to spend about $165 million to convert Altavista Power Station and two similar coal-fired power stations in Hopewell and Southampton County to use biomass. With the biomass conversions, plans are for the three 51 MW power stations to operate continuously, providing enough electricity to serve 12,500 households.

The plants will burn tree tops, branches, and other waste lumber 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 bought the three power plants in 2001. They had been in operation since 1992 and used primarily to produce steam for nearby manufacturing plants and intermittently to meet the peak demand for electricity.

The conversions will result in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and mercury. The addition of 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.

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