The power plant used about 615,000 tons of waste coal last year, and 484,000 tons in 2012. Waste coal, also called gob, is left over from earlier coal mining and a source of metals and other contaminants that leach into local waterways, Dominion stated in a release.
The power plant uses circulating fluidized bed technology for its boilers, which lets it burn a wide variety of fuel. About 80 percent of the waste coal used at the station has come from Virginia.
According to Dominion Generation CEO David Christian, the plant’s ability to burn waste coal allows the company to hold down rates for customers while also helping Southwest Virginia clean up some of its biggest environmental challenges.
The plant in Wise County, Virginia is also designed to be able to burn up to 20 percent biomass and began burning waste wood from timbering operations in October 2013. The plant’s air permit requires that 10 percent of its electricity be generated by biomass by 2017 if it is economically viable to do so, and Dominion is working toward burning up to five percent biomass by the summer of 2015.