Drax Group Plc., through its utility arm Drax Power, is moving closer towards its goal of having a coal-free concession area and, thus, changing the way energy is generated, supplied and utilized in the U.K.
Earlier this month, Drax Power said it has put its fourth coal-fired power unit at its North Yorkshire-based Drax Power Station offline. This shutdown is part of the company’s overall conversion strategy to shift from fossil fuels such as coal to more sustainable energy sources like biomass.
According to Drax Power chief executive officer Andy Koss, the said unit is expected to be back online before the year ends. He added that more than half of the power station has already been converted to biomass.
“Once we complete the upgrade in the fourth power generator, the power plant will now run on two-thirds renewable energy,” the Drax Power CEO was quoted.
Koss also attributed the unit’s successful shutdown to the engineering expertise of company’s personnel, who have developed an innovative and ingenious solution to upgrade the power generation at the power station.
The company’s engineers are further tasked to upgrade the unit by means of using some facilities abandoned eight years ago when the company was first involved in the biomass and coal co-firing technology.
“A trial last year confirmed that by modifying the old co-firing delivery system, compressed wood pellets can be delivered in the quantities required to fully convert the fourth generating unit,” the firm added in its statement.
At present, there are two remaining coal-fired power generators at Drax Power Station. Once fully converted to biomass, the plants capacity could add 200 megawatts from its previous capacity. Koss, however, did not provide the current capacity of the plant.
The cost of the fourth unit’s conversion is about £30 million, well below the previous spending on the first three conversions. The move is expected to finish over the summer, with the unit to be fully operational again within the second half of the year.
The U.K.-based renewable power generator has so far poured out at least £700 million to upgrade the power generation capability of its North Yorkshire power unit.
The company aims to become the largest decarbonization project in Europe. Last May, the firm said it is looking to pilot a bioenergy carbon capture storage project—a first of its kind in Europe. If the £400,000 project is achieved, Drax Power may be able to produce renewable electricity sourced from its North Yorkshire power station free from carbon emissions and at a low cost.
Drax Power’s heavy investments in green energy are in line with the U.K.’s move to abandon a coal-powered economy. In April, the country reportedly set a record of running its electricity grid for 76 hours and 10 minutes without the use of coal. This was the first time the country lasted that long since the 1880s.
Of the U.K.’s 2017 energy mix, coal use made up a meager 7 percent, per Financial Times. Meanwhile, The Guardian reported that at least two coal-fired plants are expected to cease operations this year, with one in Northern Ireland already shut down last May and the other in Yorkshire to close in September.
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