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
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.
“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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