Once the upgrade is complete, two-thirds of the power station’s capacity will produce renewable power.
Drax has already invested around £700m in upgrading half the power station and associated supply chain infrastructure to use sustainable biomass instead of coal – transforming the business to become Europe’s largest decarbonisation project.
The conversion of the fourth unit is expected to be complete over the summer, returning to service in the second half of 2018. The cost of conversion is significantly below the level of previous conversions, at around £30m.
Drax’s engineers will upgrade the unit by re-using some redundant infrastructure left from when the company was first co-firing biomass with coal on a large scale, around eight years ago.
A trial last year confirmed that by modifying the old co-firing delivery system, compressed wood pellets can be delivered in the quantities required to fully convert the fourth generating unit.
Andy Koss, Drax Power CEO, said: “Switching the fourth unit from coal to biomass is another milestone in the transformation of the power station. It will extend the life of the plant, protecting jobs both here at Drax and in the supply chain, whilst delivering cleaner, reliable power for millions of homes and businesses.
“The conversion that’s underway is a testament to the engineering expertise, skill and ingenuity we have at Drax. The team has developed some very innovative solutions for this upgrade, using all the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the work we have done so far to transform the business using sustainable biomass.”