Wood will fuel electricity for homes and businesses in Virginia if Dominion Power receives a final green light on converting three power stations in the state from coal to biomass.
Utility executives appeared confident in the projects’ appeal for regulators as they signed an agreement with biomass fuel producer Enviva to provide woody biomass fuel to two of the power plants. Both plants, one located in Southampton and the other in Hopewell, Virginia, are set to convert from 63MW coal-fired facilities to 50MW biomass-fueled plants under current plans.
Enviva CEO John Keppler noted that Dominion was leading other utilities in embracing “the power of biomass.” The fuel has come under attack from environmentalists concerned about its carbon dioxide emissions profile and the impact it could have on local forests.
Enviva stressed that it is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative and that it will contract out for its wood from loggers practicing “sustainable, responsible” forest management. The popularity of biomass in states like Virginia, where the paper and wood construction businesses have suffered through the extended economic downturn, is underpinned by the prospect of keeping forestry operations and sawmills in operation.
“The supply agreement with Dominion will create jobs throughout Enviva’s logging and forestry supply chain,” the company said in announcing the agreement.
Domestic use of biomass has been slow to expand, but biomass usage is already robust in Europe, and much of the wood pellet and wood chip fuel currently produced in the US is exported to European generators permitted to use the fuel under European emissions trading programs. Enviva is already a major supplier of biomass to the European markets, and is expanding, building out wood chip and pellet manufacturing facilities in Ahoskie, North Carolina and Bumpass, Virginia.
Dominion’s application to convert the power stations to biomass is currently pending before the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Enviva said.
Photo Caption: A biomass power facility currently in operation in Japan.