Dominion’s coal-to-biomass conversion at Altavista completed

Dominion Virginia Power said July 15 that it has placed its Altavista Power Station into commercial operation on July 12 with biomass as its fuel, the first of three small 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 Christian.

Dominion, a unit of Dominion Resources (NYSE: D), announced in April 2011 its plans to spend about $165m to convert Altavista and two similar coal-fired stations in Hopewell and Southampton County to fire biomass, primarily tree tops and branches that remain unused from timbering operations. 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-MW power stations to operate continuously.

The conversions will result in lower emissions of SO2, NOx, 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% by 2025. The utility is also co-firing a limited amount of biomass with coal at its new Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center.

Dominion said in a June 14 conversion update filed at the Virginia State Corporation Commission: “The contract to provide engineering, procurement, and construction (‘EPC’) services was executed with Crowder Construction Company on June 30, 2011. The contract to engineer and supply required boiler modification equipment was executed with Babcock and Wilcox Company on August 10, 2011. All major equipment has been procured and engineering is proceeding according to schedule. As of May 2013, Altavista site construction is almost complete, and commissioning of the wood yard has begun. Construction activities at Hopewell and Southampton have commenced.”

The total forecasted costs for the conversions have decreased $8.4m or 5.1% to $157.4m from the original budget case. Once completed, the conversions would, according to previous 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, limited coal operations.

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.