Power plant to boost economy

Published 10:53 am Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This is a diagram of what the converted Southampton Power Station will look like once the conversion from coal to waste wood is completed. SUBMITTED

FRANKLIN—The proposed conversion of a Dominion power plant from coal-fired to waste wood could pump as much as $25 million annually into the economy when it becomes operational in 2013.

It’s also expected to create 100 jobs in the forestry and trucking industries

During a recent briefing at Paul D. Camp Community College, officials from Dominion Virginia Power said the plant on General Thomas Highway between Franklin and Newsoms currently puts $250,000 a year into the economy.

A big reason for the increase is the change in fuel source, said Dave Faison, Dominion director of operations.

Waste wood will come from within a 60-mile radius of the plant. Dominion currently gets coal from Kentucky and West Virginia.

“The greatest cost to make electricity is the cost of fuel,” Faison said.

Approximately $5.5 million will be pumped into the economy when construction begins in September 2012.

The converted plant will burn waste wood, which is what is left over from logging sites.

“We’re the secondary users,” said Business Development Manager G.T. Hollett.

Officials also touted the benefits of burning biomass compared to coal. The waste wood used at the plant would be turned into to ash and given to farmers as a replacement for lime.

While burning biomass would drop the megawatts it can produce in a day from 63 to 50, it would allow the plant to run longer. One megawatt is enough electricity to power 10,000, 100-watt light bulbs.

While the coal the plant ran at 20-25 percent capacity, with waste wood, it will run at 90-92 percent capacity and would only be shut down for maintenance, Faison said.

The local power station would join power stations in Altavista and Hopewell, which are being converted to burn waste wood. Dominion operates the largest biomass facility in the country at the Pittsylvania Power Station. It is rated to produce 83 megawatts and uses 650,000 tons of wood a year. The Southampton Power Station will use about 600,000 tons of wood a year.