FOR 40 years Drax power station has dominated the skyline south of Selby, burning coal to provide around seven per cent of the UK's electricity.

Now the company is championing itself as a global pioneer as it undertakes one of the first power station conversion projects in a bid to replace coal firing with the burning of biomass.

Alongside the smoking chimneys now sits four giant domes, the first of their kind to be installed in the UK, holding 16 days worth of biomass supply.

The outside of the domes are made from a water proof material which was attached to the four rings on site, and slowly inflated overnight.

The structures were then reinforced with concrete from the inside, and given a vibrating W shaped floor to ensure all the pellets fall onto a newly installed 3km conveyor belt system.

The domes aren't the only first of the UK first addition, with Drax investing £50 million in a new on-site rail network, featuring their own rail carriages.

The company designed and is having built 200 carriages, which feature an autmated system yet to be seen in the industry that automatically opens doors under the carriages to drop the cargo.

A total of 75 trains are already in operationon with a further 25 about to hit the track after being manufactured in Mansfield.

Peter Emery, production director of Drax Group PLC, said: "The rail was a real benefit for this project. We have now got a state of the art signalling system and long trains, which makes it more efficient and reduces carbon foot print.

"We worked with Network Rail to update the rail infrastrucutre, and improved speed on site from five mills per hour to 15 miles per hour.

"Biomass weights less than coal so we have to burn more to create the same electricity, therefore it was vital we increased the efficiency of getting the biomass on site."

The site gets around 40 train deliveries a day, with three trains now able to unload at once thanks to two drop off bays at the new 'station' alongside the original facility.

The project has seen Drax increase its 'man hours' on site by 50 per cent, and as a result safety has been a key priority.

Sonic sensors line the domes and detectors are fitted to the converyor belt system to monitor the temperature of the biomass and ensure it's not getting hot.

The domes are also pumped with Nitrogen and CO2 to take the air out of the atmosphere and reduce the first hazzard, and the whole site has been fitted with a technical dust extraction system to eliminate any dust from the pellets, which can also lead to fires.

Mr Emery said: "What's clever about this is that it deals with the challenges of biomass such as low density and propensity to create dust which is a fire hazzard, but it also manages to utilise the existing coal infrastructure which keeps capital costs down, which is good news for share holders but also good news for customers. It's a very captial efficient project."