Waste wood to the rescue?

Published 10:04 am Saturday, April 2, 2011

COURTLAND—Dominion Virginia Power’s proposal to fuel its Southampton County generating station with waste wood instead of coal will result an economic boost for the region, officials said Friday.

The power company will retain the 30 jobs at the plant at Delaware Road and Shady Brook Trail in Courtland. The change also will lead to at least 100 new jobs in forestry, logging and trucking, said John J. Smolak, president of Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc.

The conversion would allow the plant to transform from a peaking facility to a base load facility — increasing productivity from around 30 percent to 90 percent — adding job security to the employees and the plant’s $2.8 million payroll, Smolak said.

“We view this as a very big economic development boost,” he said.

If the conversion is approved, it could also bring a big boost to the county in the form of tax revenue. County Administrator Mike Johnson said Friday the conversion would generate almost $300,000 in additional tax revenues beginning in fiscal year 2014.

“We are positively delighted that Dominion Virginia Power has chosen the Southampton plant for conversion to renewable biomass,” Johnson said. “This project is good for Dominion, good for Southampton County and good for the environment.”

Johnson said the conversion would reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, mercury, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. In addition the conversion switches the plant to a renewable fuel source.

“It takes a product that is mostly wasted and uses it to generate energy, expanding Virginia’s alternative energy portfolio,” Johnson said.

Ash byproduct produced by the place could be used as a less-expensive alternative to lime for use in the agricultural industry, Smolak said.

The Southampton County station is one of three plants Dominion is converting from coal to biomass. Plants in Altavista and Hopewell will also be converted. The three plants are identical and went into operation in 1992.