$200M conversion coming for Atikokan coal plant

Atikokan's power plant will finally be converted to burn wood pellets, or biomass, instead of coal.

Biomass plant expected to be up-and-running by 2014

(L-R) OPG Plant Manager for Thunder Bay and Atikokan Chris Fralick, Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro and Atikokan Mayor Dennis Brown are all smiles after announcing plans to go ahead with the conversion of the Atikokan coal plant to burn biomass. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Atikokan's power plant will finally be converted to burn wood pellets, or biomass, instead of coal.

An announcement Thursday morning confirmed the provincial government will keep the plant open and go forward with the plan — one that has been in the works since 2006 — to adapt the plant.

It’s one of the best pieces of news Atikokan's Mayor Dennis Brown said he's heard in a long time.

The $200 million conversion will create 200 construction jobs and sustain existing jobs at the plant.

Part of Brown’s excitement stems from the fact the plant — operated by Ontario Power Generation — is an important piece of the economy in Atikokan. More than a third of the town's taxes are paid by OPG.

Mauro and Thunder Bay-Atikokan MPP Bill Mauro said the 200-megawatt plant will provide stability for the regional power grid and provide additional an additional power source for mines that are expected to open within the next couple of years.

The government said the wood pellets will come from Ontario, creating additional jobs throughout the province. However, officials have not yet identified the suppliers.

The project is scheduled for completion by 2014.