Biomass Power Association happy with Dominion conversions

The president and CEO of the Maine-based Biomass Power Association (BPA) said July 15 that he is delighted with the Dominion (NYSE:D) effort to convert a trio of coal-fired generating units in Virginia to biomass.

“It’s great,” BPA’s Bob Cleaves told GenerationHub July 15. “We are seeing coal-to-biomass conversions continue,” Cleaves said.

A Dominion subsidiary said July that it has started commercial operation of its revamped Altavista power plant after converting it from coal to biomass. Dominion is also converting two other 51-MW power facilities in Virginia from coal to biomass primarily tree tops and branches that remain unused from timbering operations.

Founded in 1999, BPA represents more than 2,000 MW of installed biomass capacity nationally. The group’s membership includes include sawmills, paper companies, and independent power producers, doing business in over 20 states, according to the BPA website.

After a period of significant growth, expansion of biomass power has leveled off of lately due to expiration of certain tax incentives and the cheap price of natural gas, Cleaves said.

The BPA official noted that the federal 1603 program for payment for specified energy property in lieu of tax credits has expired.

Biomass typically involves organic waste can include scrap lumber, forest debris, agricultural harvest waste, and other industry byproducts that serve no other purpose, according to the BPA website.

Biomass power generation in the U.S. grew 70% each year between 1990 and 1994 — reaching 59,000 gigawatt-hours in 1994. About 100 biomass power plants are now connected to the domestic electricity grid.

Cleaves said BPA might soon start publishing a “state of the industry” report on biomass.

Cleaves, a former federal prosecutor, said the July 12 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will have minimal impact on the biomass power industry today. Plants commissioned by 2011 won’t be affected by the case concerning EPA rules for CO2 emissions, Cleaves said.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.