Conversion of existing coal-fired power stations to sustainable biomass provides many benefits:
- It is a low cost, proven and reliable renewable technology which is being rolled-out today
- It directly replaces coal as a fuel, substantially reducing CO2 emissions
- It uses a low carbon complement to intermittent and inflexible forms of power
- It contributes to green jobs throughout the supply chain
Drax is a currently a predominantly coal-fired power station typically meeting 7-8% of the UK’s electricity needs, but it is transforming into a predominantly biomass-fuelled power station. That means it will change from being the largest single source of carbon emissions in the UK to one of the largest renewable generators in the world.
Drax has six generating units and it plans to convert three of them to burn sustainable biomass in place of coal over the next few years. The first unit was converted in early April 2013, the second will follow in 2014 and the third in or before 2016 dependent on securing the rights to sufficient sustainable biomass.
Conversion of existing coal generating units is cost effective because it makes use of existing assets and grid connections, and avoids the system costs associated with many renewables because it is there when you need it and complements both intermittent and inflexible forms of power.
Drax ensures genuine carbon savings in real time because it only burns biomass from sustainable sources, predominantly from sustainably managed forests in places such as the US. These are production forests where the rate of growth is at least equal to the rate of harvest which means that the carbon stock in the forest is at least stable. Fibre from such sustainable sources is carbon neutral at the point of combustion.
Finally, Drax calculates any carbon emissions associated with each step of the supply chain from harvesting through production and transportation so Drax can be sure it is delivering real carbon savings relative to the coal it is taking off the system.