Dominion Virginia Power, a utility for Virginia, is planning to convert three power stations from using coal to biomass, a renewable-energy source. According to Dominion, the conversions would provide environmental and customer benefits and generate up to $350 million for their local economies over the next 30 years.

The power stations in Altavista, Hopewell and Southampton counties are identical and went into operation in 1992. If local governments, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Corporation Commission approve the conversions, the biomass plants could be operational in 2013.

According to Dominion, the economic impact over the 30-year life of the stations would be more than $350 million, including $30 million in local taxes, $180 million for the creation of more than 300 hundred jobs in the forestry and trucking industries and about $120 million paid to the 90 employees who would work at the stations.

The fuel switch would reduce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and particulate emissions, and all of the stations would meet stringent emissions standards established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

With these conversions, Dominion hopes to meet Virginia’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard, which calls for 15 percent of the company’s generation to be from renewable resources by 2025. Dominion successfully met the 2010 milestone of 4 percent.

Each of these plants can currently produce 63 MW of electricity of peaking power, running only when demand is at its highest. When converted, they would generate 50 MW each but would operate essentially all of the time. Together, these stations would provide electricity to about 37,500 homes.

The stations would obtain most of their fuel from the waste wood left from timbering operations and would comply with a Virginia law regulating the use of biomass for electric generation. Dominion will also be adhering to its allocated cap of 1.11 million tons per year of green wood chips and related tree materials.