ALMOST 50 years of coal-fired power generation has ended at Drax Power Station.

The power station used to be Western Europe’s largest coal-fired station but Drax bosses now hail it as a leader in renewables.

Following the discovery of the Selby coalfield, construction of the coal-fired Drax Power Station began nearby in 1967.

The power station started generating power out of its first unit in 1974 and in 1975, following the completion of two additional generators, the site officially opened.

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At the time, this provided enough power for around two million homes and in 1986, power generation capacity was doubled to just under 4GW.

Once the largest coal-fired power station in Western Europe, Drax says the plant is now the single largest generator of renewable power in the UK, with it controversially generating fuel using wood pellets imported from North America.

Over the last decade four of the power station’s six generating units have been converted to use sustainable biomass, providing the UK with what it calls “clean, green, and secure renewable electricity.”

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Drax ended commercial operations of its two remaining coal-fired generation units in March 2021, with formal closure planned for September 2022.

However, following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and the unreliability of wind and solar to guarantee supplies in cold and still spells, central government requested coal stations remained on standby as part of a winter contingency agreement.

Fortunately, the weather was not so severe this winter and the National Grid did not need to call on Drax to fire up its coal generation.

Now, Drax says central government  is confident the country has enough energy supplies so all coal-fired power stations must cease by October 2024.

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Drax will now embark on a decommissioning process to remove coal-related infrastructure from the site which will start with the flue gas desulphurisation plant that was built in the 1990s to remove 90% of the sulphur from the plant’s air emissions.

Will Gardiner, Drax Group CEO, says ending the use of coal at Drax is a landmark in its efforts to become carbon negative.

He continued: “By converting the plant to use sustainable biomass we have not only continued generating the secure power millions of homes and businesses rely on, but we have also played a significant role in enabling the UK’s power system to decarbonise faster than any other in the world.”

Drax is also negotiating with government over plans for its £2bn BECCS project to use bioenergy to capture and store carbon emissions, adding similar projects have been announced in Japan and Hungary.

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Through transforming the plant to use sustainable biomass instead of coal, Drax says it has reduced its Scope 1 and 2 carbon emissions by approximately 99% since 2012, helping the UK meets its targets for reducing such emissions.