Atikokan generating station, in operation since 1985, is 190 kilometres west of Thunder Bay, Ont. The coal-fired design is being converted to burn wood pellets.

Ontario Power Generation is going to try to replace coal with biomass at a power-generating plant.

On Tuesday, OPG announced plans to convert the power plant in Atikokan, west of Thunder Bay, to burn wood pellets instead of coal by 2012. 

It will then look at converting the three other coal-fired plants, including the giant Nanticoke plant on Lake Erie, to burn wood pellets, wheat husks or other plant material.

Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman said the initiative could prevent the need to close the coal plants as promised by 2014.

"Biomass really does stand as one of the really great opportunities for green energy in the province of Ontario, because it burns so clean and our province is so big we seem to have it in vast supply," said Smitherman.

Environmentalists support the move, providing it doesn't mean the clear-cutting of forests or using plants for fuel that should be used as food.