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UK utility to convert coal-fired plant to wood pellets

September 26, 2012, London, UK – Drax Group will spend $1 billion to turn the U.K.’s biggest coal-fired plant into western Europe’s largest clean- energy producer.


September 26, 2012
By Bloomberg News

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The utility plans to convert one of the site’s six units to burn wood pellets by June, Chief Executive Officer Dorothy Thompson told Bloomberg News . It intends to switch two more units to wood at a later date, investments that if completed will see it harvest a forest four times the size of Rhode Island each year.

Drax joins Germany’s RWE AG (RWE) and Dong Energy A/S of Denmark in taking coal-fed plants away from fossil fuels as they strive to meet European Union air-pollution rules and avoid greenhouse- gas costs.

The conversion of whole units to burn biomass marks a significant shift for Drax, which until July publicly said it was focused on ramping up volumes gradually over the next two decades, burning biomass with coal, a process known as co- firing.

The emphasis changed earlier this year when the government confidentially requested the industry’s view on full conversion.

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“We decided the government must be looking at that quite seriously if they were going to ask for people’s opinions on it,” Thompson said. As a result, Drax carried out undisclosed trials to see how a unit would react to burning “exceptionally high” levels of biomass, she said.

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