OPG contracting biomass for conversion

By Anna Austin
Posted March 18, 2010, at 11:35 a.m. CST

Ontario Power Generation is moving forward with plans to repower its 211-megawatt (MW) coal-fired Atikokan Generating Station with biomass and has issued a call for potential wood-based biomass fuel suppliers.

Located in northwestern Ontario, Atikokan will be the first power station that OPG will convert to biomass. The company owns three other coal-fired power plants in Canada, and has previously announced plans to evaluate repowering all of them with biomass by the end of 2014.

Spokesman Ted Gruetzner said OPG is looking to contract 90,000 metric tons of fuel for Atikokan in the form of wood pellets. Fuel suppliers to the power station will be required to prove that the supplied biomass is being sourced from sustainable forest management practices.

If all of the wood fuel required to power the Atikokan facility came from harvested wood, OPG said, it would be less than 1 percent of the current allowable harvest within the province. According to the Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, Ontario contains 2 percent of the world's forests and 17 percent of Canada's forests.

There is not yet a definitive timeline or cost set for the project, Gruetzner said. "We're still doing engineering and studying what will be needed in terms of storage and fuel handling," he added. "The big issue is determining how our burners will work with it (wood pellets) and configuring the fuel handling processes."

In the fall of 2009, as part as the province's Green Energy Act, which calls for Ontario to phase out all coal-fired plants, the Ontario Power Authority launched a renewable energy feed-in tariff that guarantees specific rates for energy generated from renewable sources. The rate for biomass is 13.8 cents per kilowatt for plants under 10 MW and 13.0 cents for larger facilities.