DTE Energy converts coal plant to burn biomass fuel

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DTE Energy Services Inc. (DTEES) has finished its construction project to convert a shuttered coal-fired power plant at the Port of Stockton to operate on biomass fuel.

The plant, known as Stockton Biomass, began commercial operations on February 21. It is selling its renewable power to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to help it meet its renewable energy requirement.

The plant will use about 320,000 tons of woody biomass fuel annually to generate about 45 MW of renewable power — enough electricity to meet the needs of 45,000 homes. The fuel primarily is derived from urban wood waste, tree trimmings and agricultural processes.

The site, once one of the most polluted in San Joaquin Valley, now is home to one of the cleanest solid-fuel power plants in the country. It is providing 35 high-quality jobs and another 100 indirectly involved with DTE Stockton's fuel supply infrastructure.

The plant began operation in 1989 as a coal-fired power plant and ceased operation in April 2009.  DTEES purchased it in June 2010 with plans to convert the plant to biomass. At its peak, the construction project employed about 100 workers. DTEES replaced the boilers and employed the best available control technologies to minimize air emissions.

DTEES, a unit of DTE Energy, is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich. It has completed similar biomass conversions in Cassville, Wis. and Bakersfield, Calif. The company also operates biomass power plants in Woodland, Calif. and Mobile, Ala. An official ribbon-cutting for the Stockton plant will be held later this spring.

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