Dominion Virginia Power on Monday asked the Virginia State Corporation Commission for approval to convert three Virginia coal-burning power plants to biomass, saying the proposal had "strong customer benefits" and fit well with the company’s commitment to produce 15% of its power from renewable sources by 2025.
The conversions of the power stations in Altavista, Hopewell, and Southampton County would increase Dominion’s renewable generation capacity by more than 150 MW. "The switch to biomass-in this case, using primarily waste wood left over from regional timber operations-would reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate emissions and meet stringent emissions standards established by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," Dominion said.

The cost of converting the stations would be about $165 million, or $55 million per station. The company also requested an initial annual rate increase of 14 cents to the monthly bill of a typical 1,000-kWh-per-month residential customer, effective April 1, 2012.
The power stations, which would generate about 51 MW each, are nearly identical. "The incremental statewide economic benefit of converting the stations is estimated to be more than $120 million annually when compared to continued operations on coal, including the creation of more than 300 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries," Dominion said.

The stations have been primarily peaking power units, operating 25% of the time. "If the conversions are approved, they would be more economic to operate and, therefore, would be expected to generate electricity about 90 percent of the time," the company added.

The company also filed its annual updates and rate adjustment requests for the Bear Garden Power Station, which began commercial operation in May, and the Virginia City Hybrid Energy Center, which is more than 88% complete and on schedule for a summer 2012 startup. The company has requested an increase in the existing rate adjustment clauses of $1.17 per 1,000 kilowatt-hours-10 cents for Bear Garden and $1.07 for Virginia City. If approved, the two projects would account for $6.36 of the typical 1,000-kilowatt-hour residential monthly bill of $114.67 as of April 1, 2012.

Sources: POWERnews, Dominion Virginia