After almost two years of negotiations, the Ontario government announced on July 19 it has reached an agreement to convert the Atikokan Generating Station from coal to biomass by 2014.
Conversion of the plant, which is owned by the Ontario Power Generation Inc. and located about 200 kilometres northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., will start later this year. Once completed it will provide more than 200 megawatts (MW) of energy to the power grid.
Officials say Atikokan is the first OPG-owned facility to undergo such a conversion and will be “one of the largest biomass-fired electricity generating facilities in the world.”
“The conversion of Atikokan from dirty coal to biomass means we are reducing harmful emissions and building a modern, clean, reliable energy system,” said Bill Mauro, MPP,Thunder Bay-Atikokan.
“We’ll keep energy jobs in the Town of Atikokan and create forestry jobs in northern Ontario while ensuring a cleaner, healthier Ontario for families and future generations.”
The government estimates the Atikokan conversion will create 200 construction jobs and create or support another 200 in the forestry sector since the agreement stipulates the biomass pellets used at Atikokan must be sourced and processed in the province.
The procurement of the Atikokan generating station will provide a new market for waste fibre and act as a catalyst for a larger biomass industry in Ontario. Wood pellets will be made primarily from unused and underutilized species, non-marketable wood, forest residue and sawmill residue, according to a statement issued by the Ontario government.