Dominion Virginia Power placed its Altavista Power Station into commercial operation Friday with renewable biomass as its fuel, the first of three stations to be converted from coal to biomass.
“Today marks another achievement guided by Dominion’s philosophy that balanced fuel diversity – from coal to natural gas to nuclear to renewables – leads to reasonable rates that best serve the needs and interests of customers and shareholders,” said Dominion Generation CEO David A. Christian.
Dominion announced in April 2011 its plans to spend about $165 million to convert Altavista Power Station and two similar coal-fired stations in Hopewell and Southampton County to use biomass, primarily tree tops and branches that remain unused 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 acquired the three power stations 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. With the biomass conversions, plans are for the three 51-megawatt power stations to operate continuously, providing enough electricity to serve 12,500 households.
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. Initial property tax payments to Altavista and Campbell County will total approximately $590,000 annually.