- Portland General Electric plans to burn biomass fuel at its Boardman coal plant for the equivalent of one day in December, Platts reports, as the utility mulls the facility's future.
- Boardman is scheduled to be shuttered at the end of 2020, but a PGE project manager said the plant has about two decades of useful life remaining. When the 600-MW Boardman plant shuts down in four years, it will take with it 4.3 million MWh of annual production.
- Biomass qualifies as a renewable resource under Oregon's portfolio standards, though there is some debate. Federal lawmakers are considering whether biomass should be considered carbon neutral.
What do you do with an older coal plant? An Oregon utility is considering biomass conversion, though that decision will not be without its naysayers. Critics are conflicted over whether the resource would be considered "carbon neutral" and help states achieve climate goals.
The idea to convert Boardman has been around for several years. In 2012, researchers from the University of Washington, Oregon State University and Washington State University published an analysis concluding that converting the plant would result in large emissions reductions. The study estimated Boardman would run at an annualized 300 MW, producing 2.6 million MWh of energy and 4.05 million tons of carbon dioxide.
The plant burns about 2.5 million tons of coal annually, resulting in 4.6 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, but it still has 20 years of useful life remaining, according to PGE Project Manager Wayne Lei, Platts reports.
The utility has already run one test last year, when it mixed biomass and coal together. If the decision is made to convert the plant, more pollution controls would likely be needed. Because it would run less frequently than Boardman does in its current configuration, generation would decline by more than half.
Earlier this year, Oregon set one of the nation's most ambitious renewable energy standards that boosts its renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2040 while requiring the two utilities to phase out coal generation imports by 2035.