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Coal-to-biomass conversion complete at Canada’s Atikokan bioenergy plant

Power generating station is now producing clean electricity, helping to meet local power needs in northwestern Ontario.

Operators of the Atikokan Generating Station in Ontario, Canada, have announced that the conversion from coal-fired operation to biomass fuel is now complete. With the development, the province is now home to North America’s largest power plant fuelled completely by biomass. 

Atikokan Generating Station, which employs 70 full-time workers, burned its last coal, two years ago, on 11 September, 2012. Conversion of the station began in mid-2012 and included construction of two silos and boiler modifications to accommodate the biomass. The project employed more than 200 highly skilled tradespeople and technical workers.

“A new era has dawned in Ontario — one where the air will be cleaner and the multiple costs of coal-fired generation have become a distant memory,” said Bob Chiarelli, Minister of Energy. “Atikokan’s successful conversion to biomass will put Ontario on the world map as a leader in using this sustainable fuel source for electricity production.” 1

Atikokan Generating Station will provide renewable peaking power, and can be turned on when electricity demands are highest.The biomass used to fuel Atikokan Generating Station is being harvested and processed in Ontario. Domestic suppliers have leveraged this opportunity to secure contracts to provide pellets to international buyers. Ontario Power Generation has contracts in place with two companies in northwestern Ontario to supply the wood pellets. Rentech Inc. and Resolute Forest Products Canada will each supply 45,000 tonnes of wood pellets annually.

“Close to 100 per cent of the electricity Ontario Power Generation produces is from sources that are virtually free of climate change or smog causing emissions,” said tom Mitchell, OPG’s president and CEO. “Atikokan Generating Station is a unique addition to our clean energy portfolio as it provides dispatchable renewable energy that can be used when the power system needs it.”


  1. The closure of Ontario’s coal plants comes as the province moves toward implementing a smarter electricity grid, increasing efficiencies within the electricity system, introducing strong conservation efforts and committing to cleaner energy sources. Replacing coal-fired electricity generation is the single largest climate change initiative being undertaken in North America. When fully eliminated, it will be equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road.

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure