Ontario coal plant switches to biomass fuel

Toronto, September 8, 2010 — Ontario is turning off coal and switching on biomass at the Atikokan Generation Station — a move toward the province’s goal of eliminating all coal-fired generation by the end of 2014.

The project is expected to take up to three years to complete. Once converted, the power plant is expected to generate 150 million kilowatt-hours of renewable power, enough to power 15,000 homes each year.

The conversion will create up to 200 construction jobs and help protect jobs at the plant. It will also support an estimated 20 to 25 jobs in Ontario related to the production of wood pellets and sustain other jobs in the forestry sector.

This initiative supports the province’s five-year Open Ontario Plan to create new opportunities for jobs and growth, as well as investing in infrastructure and clean energy.

“This signals a bright new future for our community. I’ve long been advocating for repowering the Atikokan Station to biomass because it makes sense for our economy and our environment,” said Bill Mauro, MPP Thunder Bay Atikokan.

“The Ontario government is building a strong, reliable and clean energy system that Ontarians can count on to power their homes and businesses. We are planning for a coal free future by converting Atikokan to biomass so that Northwestern Ontario will have a stable and clean supply of energy to fuel their economy,” said Brad Duguid, Minister of Energy.

Ontario has directed the Ontario Power Authority to negotiate an agreement to buy the biomass power generated at Atikokan from Ontario Power Generation, the plant’s owner — this is a critical next step in the process of converting the plant to biomass.

In 2009, generation by Ontario’s coal plants was at its lowest level in 45 years, and down more than 70 percent from 2003.

Biomass generation is a very flexible fuel that makes it a good backup source of power for this particular region, with variable hydroelectric conditions.

The annual fuel requirements for the plant, made up of dried wood pellets, are estimated to amount to less than one percent of the total allowable forest harvest in Ontario each year.

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