Britain’s largest coal-fired power station has begun its transition to become Britain’s largest renewable electricity generator following a £700 million coal-to-biomass conversion project.

The project will see the coal station turn to wood pellets for fuel rather than coal, a move the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) believes will make Drax one of Europe’s largest renewable electricity generators.

Drax plans on converting half of its six generating units into biomass-fuelled units by 2016, with the coal station already successfully completing the conversion of its first unit.

The conversion to biomass is predicted to generate enough low carbon electricity to supply 1,000,000 homes across the UK and sustain 1,200 jobs in the process.  

Speaking at the opening of the new facilities, Ed Davey said: “It’s crucial that we safeguard our energy security by generating green electricity on UK soil that protects bill payers from volatile foreign energy imports.

“Our coal industry has powered Britain for more than a century, and today we’re seeing a clear roadmap for its future – whether by converting existing coal plants to cleaner fuels, or building state-of-the-art power stations that mean coal is truly clean.”

Drax estimates that the switch to biomass will reduce carbon emissions by 80% compared to coal.

Below is a video explaining the engineering challenges faced by Drax in completing the £700 million project:

Currently, the UK gets 40% of its electricity from coal. However, in order to meet carbon emission targets, the majority of the UK’s coal capacity is due to come off line in the next 10 years. DECC states that it is seeking to fill the energy gap with a mix of low-carbon electricity technologies, such as “renewables (biomass and coal to biomass conversions, onshore and offshore wind and solar), carbon capture and storage technology, nuclear and some gas”.