Early last week, in a significant step to eliminate coal-fired power generation, the government announced the burning of the Atikokan plant’s last piece of coal- making it the end of an era. The conversion of the Atikokan plant from coal to biomass is now underway. This project, the first of its kind in the province of Ontario.
The project creates new economic opportunities for Ontario’s forestry sector, which will provide the biomass fuel to the plant. The project will create about 200 construction jobs and will be able to deliver more than 200 megawatts of clean, renewable power by December 2014.
Ontario Minister of Energy Chris Bentley said that the project will help eliminate the use of coal and construct a modern, reliable energy system. ”By reducing harmful emissions we are ensuring a cleaner, healthier Ontario for current and future generations,” he added.
Ontario Minister of Environment Jim Bradley said, “Ending coal-fired electricity generation in Ontario is the largest reduction of greenhouse gases in North America.”
Cost to convert the generating station to biomass is estimated at $170 million. The project includes the construction of a fuel storage and handling system that can process 90,000 tonnes of biomass fuel annually, as well as modifications to provide peak capacity.
Since 2003, the Ontario government has reduced its use of coal by 90 per cent by shutting down eleven of the province’s nineteen coal-fired power facilities. In the past nine years more than 10,000 megawatts of clean energy (enough to power two million homes in the province) has been brought online. Officials say 80 per cent of the province’s energy is now derived from “clean energy sources such as water, nuclear and renewables.”