Press Release

NRDC: Dominion Plans to Shut One of Largest U.S. Biomass Plants

Mark Drajem
mdrajem@nrdc.org, (202) 289-2436
Elizabeth Heyd
eheyd@nrdc.org, (202) 289-2424

WASHINGTON – Dominion Energy said it intends to shutter one of the largest wood-burning power plants in the U.S., underscoring the increasing competitiveness of wind and solar power in our nation’s energy mix.

The surprise move, buried in its 231-page plan to regulators this week, tracks the results of a new study released today by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology. It calculates the cost to build and produce electricity from four Virginia biomass plants operated by Dominion, finding that electricity from those plants is more expensive than that from nearly all other sources.

 “Using forests for fuel has always been bad for the environment, but now the data confirm what we’ve long suspected: It’s also bad economics,” Sami Yassa, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said. “Simply put, these plants are not economic to run. Utilities and regulators from other Southeast states should heed this lesson and reject costly coal-to-biomass conversions.”

The Pittsylvania Power Station uses 3,300 tons of woody materials a day to produce electricity. Dominion said it plans to put the plant, the largest of that kind in Virginia, in cold storage by August and to completely shutter it in 2021. The company, which had invested heavily in biomass technology within the last decade, now forecasts large new investments solar energy -- but none in biomass.

The company also plans to cut back how often it runs its other three wood-burning facilities. They will run about 10 percent of the time in most years, it said.

The research from Georgia Tech found that the cost of building and running of Dominion’s biomass plants greatly exceed that of new wind and solar power and energy efficiency measures. This finding is in line with that from Dominion’s own new integrated resource plan, which it shared with state regulators this week. Dominion estimated that the costs of new biomass plants were more than double that of wind, solar and efficiency and, also, more than that for new nuclear and natural gas plants.

To speak with Dr. Marilyn Brown, the lead author of the Georgia Tech research, or Sami Yassa, please contact Mark Drajem at mdrajem@nrdc.org or (202) 289-2436.

For more from Sami Yassa on the economics of biomass, click here.

For a copy of the Georgia Tech study, click here.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

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