TORONTO—The Atikokan Generating Station is the latest coal-fired power plant in Ontario to go offline.
On Tuesday, the facility burned its last lump of coal and officials report its transformation into a biomass power generation plant is underway.
“Today were are one step closer to eliminating the use of dirty coal while building a modern, reliable energy system that families and business know they can count on. By reducing harmful emissions we are ensuring a cleaner, healthier Ontario for current and future generations,” said Chris Bentley, Ontario’s minister of energy.
The plant, which is located near the Town of Atikokan in Northern Ontario, consisted of one coal-fired unit that produced 211 megawatts of electricity per year, enough to power 83,000 homes.
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.
The project will create about 200 construction jobs and is expected to be completed in 2014.
Since 2003, the Ontario government has reduced its use of coal by 90 per cent by shutting down 11 of the province’s 19 coal-fired power facilities. In the past nine years more than 10,000 megawatts of clean energy—enough to power two million homes—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.”
According to the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO), the organization that connects and monitors the province’s energy sources, coal accounted for 2.7 per cent of Ontario’s power in 2011 compared to 14.5 per cent in 2008. Nuclear energy still provides more than half of the province’s energy, 56.9 per cent in 2011, but renewable energy suppliers, especially wind, are increasingly adding to mix.