DTE Energy’s coal-to-biomass conversion approved

DTE Energy has received approval from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in California to convert a coal-fired power plant to biomass fuel.

In July 2010, DTE bought the plant, which was closed in April 2009 after operating for 20 years. It is located at the Port of Stockton, a major deepwater port in Stockton, Calif., that is situated on the San Joaquin River.

The conversion will include a boiler replacement and installation of best available emission control technologies. When complete, the Port of Stockton District Energy Facility will combust 100 percent biomass fuel, mainly wood fuel derived from urban wood waste, tree trimmings and agricultural residues. John Austerberry, DTE Energy spokesman, said that the company is currently in negotiations with potential fuel suppliers and could not currently release fuel usage estimates.

Post-conversion, the combined-heat-and-power facility will produce 45 megawatts (MW) of electricity, which will be sold to Pacific Gas and Electric Co. under a long-term power purchase agreement.

DTE estimates that about 100 construction jobs will be created at peak construction, and about 50 full-time employees and contractors will be needed to operate and maintain the plant when the conversion is complete. Austerberry said DTE plans to begin the conversion July 1, and expects to complete work in July 2012.

The plant will gain credit under California’s renewable portfolio standard of 33 percent by 2020.

DTE Energy has several other biomass projects, including a similar, completed biomass conversion in Cassville, Wis., a conversion underway in Bakersfield, Calif., and two operating biomass power plants in Woodland, Calif., and Mobile, Ala.