Dominion nears permits for three coal-to-biomass conversions

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality is taking public comment on three draft prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) air permits needed by Virginia Electric and Power to convert three small, little-used coal plants to burning biomass.

The Virginia State Corporation Commission had approved these conversions on March 16 in a combined docket for all three plants. Virginia Electric, which does business as Dominion Virginia Power, is a unit of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D).

  • The DEQ is taking comment until April 30 on the draft PSD permit for the Southampton plant, located near Franklin in Southampton County. “The proposed modification to the existing PSD permit involves alterations to the two existing stoker boilers as well as replacement of the coal handling system with a biomass handling system to convert Southampton Power Station from a coal fired facility to a biomass fired facility for electric power and steam production,” said a DEQ public notice.
  • The public notice period runs until May 1 on the Hopewell draft PSD permit. “Dominion has applied for a permit to modify the two primary boilers to burn biomass at their Hopewell facility,” said the DEQ notice. “The facility is classified as a major source of air pollution and is located at 107 Terminal Street, Hopewell.”
  • The comment period also runs to May 1 for Altavista. “The Virginia Electric and Power Company has applied for permits to modify the Altavista Power Station from a coal- and coal/wood-fired electricity generating facility to a biomass fired facility,” the DEQ notice said.

Once completed, the conversions would, according to company testimony filed at the commission, decrease the net capacity rating for each facility from 63 MW to 51 MW. But it would increase the expected energy production for each compared to continued coal operations. In order to qualify for certain federal production tax credits, the company proposed to put the converted power stations in commercial operation by Dec. 31, 2013. The estimated construction cost of the conversions is about $165.8m, excluding financing costs.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.